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A blister is a raised area of skin that is filled with a clear liquid, or occasionally blood, over which the skin is intact. They form when that area has been damaged by pressure, chemicals that have been applied to the area, burns, insect bites, allergies, fungal or viral infections.
If no further damage occurs to that area then the skin over the fluid stays intact and unbroken and the fluid is gradually re-absorbed back into the surrounding tissue.
Blisters formed from pressure often occur on the feet, from new footwear or after a sporting activity, and from changing from casual summer shoes to more formal, constricting footwear. Blisters also occur from overuse, such as on the hands after repetitive actions with tools and devices, like from the handle of a spade after digging in the garden.
If the blister has been caused by friction or pressure, try to relieve the pressure by using padded dressings and bandages and soft footwear or protective gloves when undertaking activities that may cause further damage.
When the skin has been damaged by a burn or from irritant substances, then it is important to cool the area or rinse away the irritant with cool water – if possible hold the blistered area under a running cold water tap, or use wet towels over the burned or damaged area, changing them frequently to ensure the irritant has been removed and the area cooled.
If blisters are as a result of an infection, bite or allergy, then consult your community pharmacist. They will be able to give you specific advice to treat the underlying condition and to prevent further blisters occurring.
The most important treatment for a blister is to avoid breaking the skin over the blister. The fluid that is contained in the blister will disappear over the next few days and no infection should arise if the skin surface is not further damaged. These blisters are generally only painful when pressure is applied to them.
If the blister breaks then there is a risk of infection developing. They are also generally much more painful and take longer to heal. It is important to gently clean and cover the area with a clean dressing, and observe the blister and surrounding skin for any signs of redness, blood or infection developing.
If you have an area that is prone to developing blisters then you can use protective dressings that pad and protect the area to prevent blisters occurring. Your community pharmacy has a range of dressings that are specifically designed to speed healing, as well as to prevent, protect and treat blisters.
In order to prevent blisters and other skin damage remember to protect the skin with socks, soft comfortable footwear that is neither too large or too tight, and use gloves to protect your hands from friction and pressure damage, as well as from irritant chemicals.
Your community pharmacist is able to give you help and advice if you need to seek further help to treat the damaged or infected areas of skin affected by blisters.