What Causes A Water Blister And How To Deal With It
That blister you get on the bottom of your foot while hiking, or on the palm of your hand when gardening, is almost always a water blister, as opposed to a blood blister, or a blister filled with pus due to an infection. A blister usually isn't harmful in itself. The fluid in the blister, which really isn't water, but rather is a serum or plasma, is there to act as a protective cushion.
A water blister usually forms due to friction, although there are other causes as well. When the outer layer of the skin, the epidermis, becomes sufficiently irritated, from constant rubbing for example, fluid collects under the skin at the point where the irritation is greatest. This can be a very small area or a relatively large one. The fluid under the outer layer of skin is there to protect the underlying layer of skin from further damage. If it weren't for blisters, we could do a great deal more damage to our skin in the sense that any damage would be apt to affect deeper tissue, creating among other things, a greater potential for an infection to occur.
If a blister you get on a hand or foot is dark in color, perhaps a dark red, it's a blood blister rather than a water blister. While most blisters can take some time to develop, and you may not even notice one until it breaks or starts to hurt, you usually know when you get a blood blister, as it's caused by an injury to the tissues immediately below the surface of the skin. When the injury, often caused by pinching, is severe enough, blood and other fluids will accumulate under the skin. In a sense, a blood blister is quite a bit like a water blister, but what causes it is generally quite different, and there has been greater damage done to tissues.
Causes Other Than Friction - Although friction is the most common cause of water blisters, excessive heat can also cause them to form. Blisters can form when one has an especially bad sunburn, of has suffered from another type of burn, such as from touching something hot. Blisters can also be caused by fire, or by a chemical. Again, the fluid in the blister is there for a purpose, to protect the underlying tissue from additional damage. Viral infections, or allergic reactions, can also cause blisters to form, especially in the vicinity of the mouth. Blisters due to these causes are relatively rare, but they can occur, and if they do they should not be burst due to the risk of spreading the infection.
Most blisters can be burst, and sometimes need to be. In most cases it's best to try to keep a blister intact, since if the skin is unbroken, the underlying tissues are protected against infection. If a blister is creating problems, such as making walking painful, it may be necessary to burst it. A blister on the hands can also at times interfere with the way the hands can be used, and may therefore need to be burst. We sometimes use the phrase “popping a blister”. That can imply either squeezing it, which is not a good idea, or poking it with a needle. Poking a blister with a needle is the accepted way to burst it, but there's a right way and a wrong way to go about it. Attempting to squeeze a blister would most likely be painful, plus it could tear the skin, inviting infection and possibly leading to scarring.
The Proper way To Drain A Blister - It would be even better to use the term “drain” rather than pop or burst, when you want to remove the fluid from a blister. To drain a blister, the first and most important thing is to make certain the area around the blister is as clean as circumstances allow, even though you will just be pricking the skin with a needle. You also want to be certain the needle has been sterilized. Holding the tip of the needle over a flame will usually accomplish this. Otherwise clean the needle with an antiseptic solution of some kind, or with rubbing alcohol.
Instead of poking the blister in its center, which would seem to be the natural thing to do, poke the needle into the blister in one or more places near the edges. Having done this, the fluid will usually drain out, perhaps with the aid of a bit of light pressure. Make certain to leave the skin in place, at least to the greatest extent possible, before applying an antibiotic ointment. Then, place a bandage over the blister. Even the most basic first aid kits will usually have everything you need to properly drain and treat a blister. Keep everything clean, leave the skin in place, and cover the drained blister, and everything should be fine.
Anytime you get a water blister, there's usually a lesson to be learned, and that lesson is what you need to be doing to prevent a recurrence of the problem. It can be anything from wearing gloves, to changing over to a heavier hiking sock, or purchasing a better fitting pair of boots or shoes.