Blisters can arise from just about any activity which exposed the skin to friction or heat. While they might cause pain or discomfort, most blisters usually heal on their own without the need for medical intervention. In some cases, however, bacteria may access underlying tissue and cause an infection. When this occurs, it’s important to seek medical attention.
Understanding the Risk
Without medical intervention, infected blisters can lead to serious medical emergencies that can cost people their limbs or their lives. As bacteria spreads throughout the body, it can cause tissue death, septic shock, organ failure and death.
Infected Blister Treatment
With proper treatment, infected blisters typically heal quickly and completely. Treatment can vary depending on the severity of the infection; however, it generally involves cleaning, sterilization and oral or intravenous antibiotics. NSAIDs may also be used to reduce pain, fever and swelling.
Recognizing an Infection
Because early intervention can play a key role in recovery, it’s important to watch out for any of the following signs of an infection:
- An unpleasant odor
- A fever or chills
- Increased redness, swelling or tenderness
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Drainage or pus
- Warmth on or around the blister
- Red streaks progressing away from the blister
Draining a Blister
If your blister isn’t infected but is causing pain, you can relieve symptoms by draining it in the following manner:
- Wash the blister and your hands using soap and water.
- Swab the blister with rubbing alcohol or iodine.
- Sterilize a sharp, clean needle using rubbing alcohol.
- Puncture the blister at the edge using the sterilized needle.
- Let the fluid drain and then apply antibiotic ointment.
- Cover the drained blister with a gauze pad or bandage.
- Cut away any dead skin after a few days, using scissors or tweezers sterilized with rubbing alcohol.
You can reduce your chances of developing blisters by wearing socks, gloves and other types of protective clothing that limit friction. You can also purchase special athletic socks, which provide extra padding to critical areas of the foot.