Blister, blister, who's got the blister?
March 2, 2010 3:58 PM   Subscribe

Your tried and true speedy blister recovery tips, please.

What do you do to speed up the recovery time for blisters large and small, on hands and feet, popped and unpopped? When to drain and when not to? What to wash/soak it in? What to bandage it in?

I'm asking today because I have a really nasty, sort of huge, popped blister on my right instep from running without socks (I know, I know) and I don't want to be off for more than a day because of it, but really knowing what to do would be handy in all kinds of situations.

Bonus points if you have ideas for how to mitigate the discomfort enough to run on a big blister.
posted by peachfuzz to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Cut the loose skin off.

Depending on how ballsy you are feeling...

SOMEWHAT BALLSY: Make a salt water solution with as much salt as you can handle. Soak the foot in it.

VERY BALLSY (My Preferred Option): Pour salt directly on open wound. Wait for pain to subside. Rinse salt off and repeat until it doesn't hurt.

In both cases, don't wear a sock for as much of the day as possible so the wound can air out. I have used the "VERY BALLSY" method on my torn callouses on my hands and it has allowed me to continue doing pull-ups the next day.
posted by Loto at 4:08 PM on March 2, 2010

The issues here are twofold. First and most important, you want to guard against infection. I apply a good disinfectant (my choice is Betadine, but anything you can apply to the surface repeatedly is good) and try to keep the foot clean and dry. My suggestion is to not tear the skin away as it is a "bandage" for the raw skin underneath. After the blister skin has dried out you can carefully remove it.

Now, as to running on it, of course the best advice is don't. Since we know you will anyways, I suggest a light non-stick dressing with an antibiotic ointment like Bacitracin or Neosporin. Wear a double layer of socks and scream all the way down the street.

To keep this from happening again, apply moleskin to the places you know will get a rubbing. Of course, you know that socks are a good thing, but I won't lecture you any more on that.
posted by Old Geezer at 4:29 PM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

marathon runner here and I'm in my strength training phase. four huge blisters on the same toe last month. popped them all and I would do it again. drain them, tape them up good. agreed on cutting loose skin if it doesn't leave a large area uncovered. you want to make sure the area is flat and tightly taped up and doesn't have tons of wiggle room. drain them repeatedly if necessary.

as for running: the only advice is to suck it up and run through it. you don't want to take a massive time out until that's completely healed. sorry, we have all been there.

oh yeah: it's also damp feet (snow, rain) and too tightly-fitting socks that can cause nasty blisters. just as a heads up.
posted by krautland at 4:43 PM on March 2, 2010

Cut out a hole the size and shape of the blister from an appropriately-sized piece of molefoam. Applying this around the blister, with the hole over the blister itself, helps take the pressure off. It's better not to pop the blister or stick anything directly to it. Guard against infection, as Old Geezer says.
posted by Ery at 4:45 PM on March 2, 2010

If you pop it, use a sterilized needle (held in a flame to kill the germs) and pop from the side. Leave the skin there to protect the raw stuff underneath.
posted by cecic at 5:11 PM on March 2, 2010

If the blister has already popped, cut off the loose skin, clean it, let it air out, and then apply New-Skin to the raw area. It will sting like hell at first but it will protect the exposed area. You should be able to run on it tomorrow. Ex ballet dancer here, new-skin saved my toes many a time.

If it hasn't popped yet and is full of fluid- yeah, you won't get any relief until it is drained.
I also agree that wrapping the foot tightly will help, you don't want it moving against anything, even just your socks. A band-aid will likely fall off.

On dealing with the pain: I found blister pain pretty easy to work through because I knew that it wasn't pain relating to lasting damage. It wasn't a pleasant sensation but it was fairly meaningless, therefore easy to ignore. It's not the pain of running on a bad knee or something that you know would be damaging.
posted by bobobox at 5:59 PM on March 2, 2010

These Band-aid Blister Ampoules are pretty awesome, waterproof and last for days. I think they're medicated, but they bascially do the same thing as the moleskin trick — protect the area while it heals. Plus they're kinda padded.
posted by Brittanie at 7:04 PM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

If it cracks/becomes scabby, I find that popping vitamin E capsules and applying them directly to the area at night is helpful.
posted by hepta at 7:32 PM on March 2, 2010

as for running: the only advice is to suck it up and run through it.

My experience is that things only get worse, the damage goes deeper the more you run on it. Is there a proper way to dress it to avoid further damage while running?
posted by knave at 8:17 PM on March 2, 2010

Non-runner, but I do/did play basketball and bass. I've always hated that feeling of walking on an unpopped blister. Just the awful feeling of the liquid inside, and it hurts. Completely interferes with a normal, fun life. If I got a blister playing basketball, I put my shoes and socks back on and played again, full speed, knowing it would pop on its own. For bass, I held a needle in flame, and popped it. If you go at it from the side, like suggested above, there's absolutely no pain, as the skin is dead already. I usually poke a couple holes in the blister, then squeeze out the gunk inside. Leaving the dead skin on gives the raw pink skin a chance to toughen up. Pulling the skin off a blister before it's ready for its debut is a recipe for pain.
posted by Ghidorah at 10:48 PM on March 2, 2010

This is what I do for big foot blisters: take a piece of cotton about 30cm long, thread it onto a needle. Now, take a deep breath and pierce the blister, going in, and then out again (it shouldn't hurt, but be careful not to jab yourself). Pull the cotton through the blister so that it makes a kind of wick with the two ends. Cut the cotton so that about 2 inches sticks out of either side of the blister This should allow the fluid the builds up in the blister to drain and encourage the blister to dry out and heal.

I find that once the pressure of the fluid is released, the blisters become MUCH less painful and can be walked on without too much discomfort.

You should probably sterilise the needle and cotton first, needle in a flame and cotton in vodka perhaps.

You shouldn't take the skin off a blister because it exposes the wound to infection.

IANAFD (I am not a foot doctor).
posted by jonesor at 10:49 PM on March 2, 2010

I just cover them in medical tape and ignore until it falls off a week later. Works pretty well on anything you can tape up. I don't pierce them because by the time I notice them they are already popped.
posted by fshgrl at 11:53 PM on March 2, 2010

Nthing brittanie...they're made with something that drains the fluid in about a day or two.
posted by brujita at 12:26 AM on March 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

I row and inevitably wind up with blisters on my hands (that are put under pressure when I'm pulling on an oar). While I know hand blisters are different than feet blisters, here's what I've found to be helpful.

First, don't pop your blister until it's necessary to do so. If you finish a run with a blister, leave it intact as long as possible. This will prevent infection and speed healing - the fluid's absorbed back into the skin, keeping the new tender red skin from cracking. (This of course doesn't apply if there's a painful amount of pressure). Open wounds in rowing are easily infected; I doubt this applies in the same way for runners, though.

Second, keep the blister clean clean clean! This is especially important once it's popped. You don't want bacteria getting under the flap of dead skin because they're impossible to then get at unless you remove the top layer of skin (which can lead to horribly uncomfortable drying out/scabbing/cracking). I make sure to wash the blister thoroughly with soap and water after any exercise and, depending on what it looks like, also use an antibacterial ointment.

Third, if they've already popped, I wrap them up when I'm exercising. I use a second skin dressing like Mefix (I'm not sure that it has the same name outside of the UK). It's great because it's breathable, stretchy, can be applied directly on a wound, and stays in place. This keeps them clean and protects the delicate skin. For rowing, this is enough to keep them undamaged enough to heal. For running, I'd pad the blister further on top of the mefix using moleskin or the like (you don't want to put moleskin directly on an open wound!). If you cut a blister shaped hole in the moleskin, this should allow you to keep running (you may need more than one layer of moleskin).

I actually find that keeping popped blisters moist helps them heal more quickly, with the caveat that the skin does need to dry out for a while before you apply pressure to it (rowing, running, etc). There are special hydrocolloidal blister bandages that work very well for this purpose. They're quite expensive, though, so I tend to just use a layer of antibacterial ointment covered by either mefix or a breathable bandage. Keeping the healing site moist prevents cracking and scabbing, which only prolong the amount of time you'll have to worry about taking care of your blister.

(I spend a lot of time dealing with blisters! Hope this helps and you're back to running quickly!)
posted by lumiere at 5:48 AM on March 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

I used to repeatedly get large blisters on my hands from drumming, and found that draining them then taping them tightly was fine. Usually needed about a day of rest though, because if I started playing right after taping it was kind of raw and the affected area would get bigger. I've never got a blister infected, but always used soap and hot water on the needle before draining. Only if the skin is greatly torn should you cut off, otherwise leave it on.
posted by molecicco at 6:34 AM on March 3, 2010

Those silicon Band-Aids mentioned above are pretty much magic as long as you pop the blister well enough that it doesn't refill. They're spendy- large ones work out to a buck fifty apiece- but they last a long time and are worth it.

I made a bad sock choice for a cross-country ski trip last Saturday and ended up with blisters on each heel about the size of two nickels. With those on, I felt it Sunday when I walked w/ shoes on, but haven't really noticed pain since.
posted by charmedimsure at 7:55 AM on March 3, 2010

Not running blisters, but burning ones - my old metalwork lecturer swore by neat lavender oil (on an unpopped blister)
posted by metaphorical at 4:13 PM on March 3, 2010

I'm sitting at my desk right now with a blister gel thing that's been perfectly sealed up since yesterday morning, with tape over it for my run this afternoon. Reasonably painless, even if it's all gross and bubbled up underneath. Thanks, hive mind!
posted by peachfuzz at 8:45 AM on March 4, 2010

Just came upon this thread. One suggestion for not getting them in the first place: Body Glide anti-friction lubricant. It seems a little counter-intuitive that making your feet more slippery in your sock would prevent blisters, but is prevents the sock from chafing. I ran out of mine and played a soccer game without it yesterday, so now I came to this thread to see what I could do to be able to play again on Tuesday.
posted by outlandishmarxist at 2:06 PM on September 25, 2010

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