How To Treat An Infected Blister
Blisters are commonplace, and we get them all the time, but an infected blister can sometimes be more of a problem than we bargained for. The one reason blisters are so common is that there are so many ways for one to develop. The most common cause of blisters is friction due to rubbing. Doing yard or garden work without wearing gloves can cause a blister if you haven't held a rake in your hands for awhile, or you spend a half hour squeezing pruner handles while pruning a shrub or tree. The inner part of the hand between the thumb and the forefinger is what usually pays the price.
Taking a long hike while wearing cotton socks, or wearing shoes that allow the feet to move around too much inside of them, can quickly produce a blister or two on the sole of the foot, on the top of the toes, or on the side of the foot. Walking suddenly becomes a lot less enjoyable.
What A Blister Is - A blister is a buildup of fluid under the outer layers of the skin. In most instances this fluid is plasma, but it can also be blood. A blood blister, which will be very dark in color, should be treated in the same manner as any other blister. If a blister is allowed to become infected, pus will usually enter the picture, and when present tends to be either yellow or green in color. The first line of defense against a blister is to try to keep it from getting any larger, which usually means ceasing the activity that caused the blister in the first place. The larger a blister becomes, the more likely it is to break. Once the skin surrounding a blister breaks, the tissue beneath the skin is no longer protected against germs, and an infected blister may be the result.
Draining A Blister - A blister that is not too large will usually drain and heal itself rather quickly if left alone. Typically it takes 4 or 5 days for new skin to form under the blister and the fluid to be absorbed back into the body. In some cases it may take up to a week. If a blister takes longer to heal, or shows no sign of healing, it's best to seek medical attention. If it becomes necessary to drain a blister, always use a sterilized needle, and make certain the blister and the surrounding area have been sterilized as well. It is better to puncture the blister near one of its edges than in the center, since the goal should always be to keep the “lid” on the blister intact. Never try to drain a blister by attempting to cut away or tear away the skin. Once the blister has been drained, apply an antibiotic ointment. A band aid placed on blister will usually offer sufficient protection, and if the blister is on the foot and is fairly large, placing a moleskin around it before putting a bandage over it is the best means of protection. Moleskin can become invaluable during a hike if you've developed a blister and still have a long ways to go.
While a blister can form almost anywhere on the body, it's safe to say that they occur on the hands or feet a good 90% of the time, as those are the areas most likely to experience rubbing or friction. Blisters that occur elsewhere on the body are usually the result of extreme heat or cold, or are symptomatic of a disease, such as chickenpox. No matter what the cause, care should always be taken to try to prevent a blister from opening.
When Infection Sets In - The symptoms of an infected blister seldom become apparent immediately, and may not make their presence known for a day or more after the blister has formed. The usual sign of infection is a redness in the immediate area, or red streaks fanning out from the blister. The area around the blister may feel warm, and also may feel more tender than one would expect. An infected blister usually becomes painful as well, and the pocket of fluid may become filled with pus, which may or may not drain from the blister.
No matter how large or small a blister is, if it becomes infected it should never go untreated. Infections that are not attended to have a way of spreading, or causing unforeseen complications. In the case of an infected blister, secondary impetigo, a contagious bacterial infection could develop. This in turn could lead to cellulitis, where the deeper layers of the skin become infected. A worst case scenario would be if sepsis would take hold. Sepsis is a condition where the body overreacts to an infection, and is a potentially lethal condition.
It should be noted that blisters that form repeatedly, or for reasons that are not understood (they are not the result of friction or rubbing), should be looked at by a doctor, since such blisters are sometimes symptomatic of an underlying disease or disorder which may require prompt attention.