Skin Blisters: To Pop or not to Pop?
We’ve all been there. We feel that pressure building up on the skin as a spot forms and blisters. It builds to a point where we can’t help but touch it and inevitably squeeze it. Although popping blisters can be satisfying, it may come as no surprise that it is not always the best idea.
What is a Blister?
Blisters are raised bubbles under the top layer of your skin. They are filled with either clear liquid, blood or pus. Whatever they’re filled with, they are usually annoying and uncomfortable to leave there. This is especially true if they’re on a part of the body you’re using a lot.
Now, as dermatologists, we would always recommend you leave your blisters alone. However, this isn’t always possible. We’re going to explain how to approach blisters if you wish to pop them.
However, It is worth remembering that not all blisters are created equal. Understanding the blister you have is vital to determining the best approach.
Can I Pop That Blister?
Firstly, there are three types of blisters we’re going to discuss today. Friction Blisters, Blood Blisters and Fever Blisters.
Each of these blisters occurs for different reasons. Some we will allow you to pop, others we recommend you do not touch.
Do not touch them! Fever blisters are usually red blisters filled with fluid. They form on the face and near the mouth but also the nose, inside the mouth and even the fingers can suffer from these pesky blisters.
Can you pop them?
Unlike many other blisters these are caused by the Herpes Simplex virus. It spreads through close contact and you should never pop these blisters. If you do, you could end up spreading the virus onto other parts of your skin or even other people. It also won’t heal any faster.
With fever blisters, you want to try and accelerate the scabbing over phase and the best method for this is not to touch. Once it starts scabbing over, you are almost in the clear so let your body do the work with these ones!
These are more common since they can affect all of us. These blisters usually contain a mixture of blood and clear fluid. When they first form they are usually red and this is due to the broken blood vessels under the raised skin.
Can you pop them?
We would recommend doing your best to avoid popping these blisters. They usually drain of their own accord within a few days. However, if they’re in a spot you use frequently, like your fingers, then you can take action. If the blister pops on its own whilst you’re out and about, there is a risk of infection so treating it at home would be a good solution.
This is a type of blister that I’m sure you know already. New pair of shoes? Skiing? Even washing up, you’re likely to see a blister like this.
They form due to friction, hence the name. When your new shoes rub against your heal your body aims to protect your skin. To do this it forms a bubble of fluid to create a kind of buffer between the thing causing friction and your skin. This is why they’re most common on your hands and feet since this is where most of our movement is happening.
Can you pop them?
Yes and no! They’re similar to blood blisters in that you should do your best not to pop them. They usually drain within a few days and a new layer of skin will form underneath. After this the blister will drop off.
However, these blisters are caused by friction. Which means its likely to be in a place you’re using often and could risk being popped. Just like blood blisters, there is a risk of infection. By popping these blisters safely you can negate this risk.
How to pop a blister safely
So to be clear. This is for blisters that are at a high risk of rupturing and causing infection. And never for Fever blisters.
Remember you’re disrupting the natural process by popping a blister so if you can leave it to heal then we would recommend you do so. Popping a blister could risk lengthening the healing time and you’ll need to monitor it closely for any signs of infection.
- Wash your hands! We’re living in a new post-coronavirus world so this one should be pretty obvious anyway. however, you need to clean your hands with warm soap and water
- Clean the Blister – Use alcohol, iodine or an antiseptic to clean the blister area
- Use a disinfected needle – the safest way to pop a blister is with a disinfected needle. Soak it in alcohol for at least 20 seconds
- Carefully puncture the blister – We would say 3 holes is enough. Do this very carefully and make sure the holes are shallow. You only want to puncture the blister bubble. The idea is to keep as much of the skin intact as you possibly can.
- Cover with ointment – Use a petroleum jelly like vaseline to cover the blister once it has been drained.
- Apply Dressing – We’re not talking salsa here! Use a bandage or gauze to cover the blister tightly. Make sure the skin of the blister is pressed against the underlying skin.
Is my Blister infected?
If you notice pus draining from the blister, a foul smell, warm or painful skin then this could be a sign of infection. Our online dermatologists are on hand and can have you checked within hours. We would recommend speaking to them if you are concerned about your blister.
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Specialist doctor from the University Hospital in Gothenburg, alumnus UC Berkeley. My doctoral dissertation is about Digital Health and I have published 5 scientific articles in teledermatology and artificial intelligence.