You just got back from a run (that last mile was no joke) and you’re so relieved to finally peel off your sneakers and sweaty socks. But, wait, what’s that on the side of your big toe? Ugh, it’s a huge blister—and it definitely wasn’t there before you hit the track. And, if you’re anything like us, your next thought is: Should I pop a blister? Is it even safe to do that? So, here’s everything you need to know before reaching for a (sterilized) needle.
What is a blister?
A blister is a sac that sits on the surface of the skin that can be filled with fluid, blood or puss. Blisters usually heal by themselves in seven to 10 days when they’re left alone; a blister that’s been popped could take longer to properly heal. There are a number of different types of blisters but three main ones:
This blister forms when blood vessels under the skin’s surface have been pinched or damaged—like when you accidentally catch your finger in a drawer. Ouch. The blood creates the fluid-filled sac, which can appear raised and red or purple in color.
Caused by exposure to extremely high temperatures (or too much sun exposure), these blisters occur when a skin covering forms over the burnt sections as a form of protection.
As the name implies, this blister forms when skin is continuously rubbed against another object. The force of the motion (for example, your heel rubbing against the back of a new shoe), causes the layers of epidermal cells to separate and that area is then filled with fluid.
Is it safe to pop a blister?
Regardless of what type of blister you have, it’s always best to leave it alone, since popping it interrupts the sterile environment, creating an entrance that can invite bacteria and infection. The best way to treat a blister (especially one that looks like it might pop on its own) is to cover it with a band-aid and to apply a cold compress, if it’s causing you pain.
Okay, but this blister is really annoying me. Can I pop it?
If possible, head to a doctor, who can safely pop it for you. And you should never pop a blood blister or heat blister on your own. However, if that’s not an option and you really need to get rid of a friction blister, here’s what you need to know.
Wash your hands thoroughly.
Grab a needle and make sure to sterilize it properly, by either holding it under a flame until the point turns red or by thoroughly rinsing it in alcohol.
Make a small hole in the blister and let the fluid drain out. Do not remove any additional skin or puncture the blister further. Note: If the fluid is white or yellow, you might have an infection and should see a medical professional.
Once the fluid is drained, apply an antibiotic ointment or cream and cover with a band-aid.
As your blister heals, keep an eye out for infection (pus, red or warm skin will be clear signs).