Blisters are fluid-filled bumps that look
like bubbles on the skin. You may develop a
blister on your foot when you wear new shoes that rub against your skin or on
your hand when you work in the garden without wearing gloves. Home treatment is
often all that is needed for this type of blister.
Other types of
injuries to the skin that may cause a blister include:
- Burns from exposure to heat, electricity,
chemicals, radiation from the sun, or friction.
- Cold injuries from being exposed to cold or freezing
- Some spider bites, such as a bite from a
brown recluse spider . Symptoms of a brown recluse spider bite include reddened
skin followed by a blister that forms at the bite site, pain and itching, and
an open sore with a breakdown of tissue (necrosis) that develops within a few
hours to 3 to 4 days following the bite. This sore may take months to heal.
- Pinching the skin forcefully, like when a finger gets caught in a
drawer. A blood blister may form if tiny blood vessels are damaged.
Infection can cause either a single blister or clusters of
- Chickenpox (varicella) is a common
contagious illness that is caused by a type of herpes virus. Chickenpox
blisters begin as red bumps that turn into blisters and then scab over. It is
most contagious from 2 to 3 days before a rash develops until all the blisters
have crusted over.
- Shingles , often seen in older adults,
is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. Shingles blisters look like
chickenpox, but they usually develop in a band on one side of the
- Hand-foot-and-mouth disease, another type of viral infection, most often occurs in young children. Symptoms include a rash of small sores or blisters that usually appear on the hands and feet and in the mouth.
- Cold sores , sometimes called fever blisters, are
clusters of small blisters on the lip and outer edge of the mouth. They are
caused by the herpes simplex virus. Cold sore-type blisters that develop in the
genital area may be caused by a
genital herpes infection.
is a bacterial skin infection. Its blisters, which often occur on the face,
burst and become crusty (honey-colored crusts).
- Infected hair
follicles (folliculitis ) cause red, tender areas that turn into
blisters at or near the base of strands of hair.
scabies infection, which occurs when mites burrow into
the skin, may cause tiny, itchy blisters that often occur in a thin line or
- Bedbugs can cause tiny, itchy blisters anywhere
on the body.
Inflammation may cause skin blisters.
- Contact dermatitis occurs when skin
touches something in the environment that causes an
- Blisters may develop from a
disease that causes your body to attack your own skin (autoimmune disease).
Occasionally a prescription or nonprescription
medicine or ointment can cause blisters. The blisters
may be small or large and usually occur with reddened, itchy skin. If the
blisters are not severe and you do not have other symptoms, stopping the use of
the medicine or ointment may be all that is needed. Blisters may
also occur as a symptom of a toxic reaction to a medicine. This reaction is
Stevens-Johnson syndrome. Blisters that occur with
other signs of illness, such as a fever or chills, may
mean a more serious problem.
Check your symptoms
to decide if and when you should see a doctor.
Most blisters heal on their own. Home treatment may help decrease pain, prevent infection, and
help heal large or broken blisters.
- A small, unbroken blister about the size of a pea, even a blood blister, will usually heal on its own. Use a loose bandage to protect it. Avoid the activity that caused the blister.
- If a small blister is on a weight-bearing area like the bottom of the foot, protect it with a doughnut-shaped moleskin pad . Leave the area over the blister open.
- It's best not to drain a blister at home. But when blisters are painful, some people do drain them. If you do decide to drain your blister, be sure to follow these steps:
- Wipe a needle or straight pin with rubbing alcohol.
- Gently puncture the edge of the blister.
- Press the fluid in the blister toward the hole so it can drain out.
- Do not drain a blister of any size if:
- You have a condition such as diabetes, HIV, cancer, or heart disease, because of the risk of infection.
- You think your blister is from a contagious disease, such as chickenpox, because the virus can be spread to another person.
- If a blister has torn open, or after you have drained a blister:
- Wash the area with soap and water. Do not use alcohol, iodine, or any other cleanser.
- Don't remove the flap of skin over a blister unless it's very dirty or torn or there is pus under it. Gently smooth the flap over the tender skin.
- Apply an antibiotic ointment and a clean bandage. If the skin under the bandage begins to itch or a rash
develops, stop using the ointment. The ointment may be causing a skin
- Change the bandage once a day or anytime it gets wet or dirty. Remove it at night to let the area dry.
Watch for a skin infection while your blister is healing.
Signs of infection include:
- Increased pain, swelling, redness, or warmth
around the blister.
- Red streaks extending away from the
- Drainage of pus from the blister.
Home remedies may relieve
itching from blisters. One way to help decrease
itching is to keep the itchy area cool and wet. Apply a cloth that has been
soaked in ice water, or get in a cool tub or shower.
Medicine you can buy without a prescription
| Try a nonprescription
medicine to help treat your fever or pain:|
- Acetaminophen, such as Tylenol
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs):
- Ibuprofen, such as Advil or
- Naproxen, such as Aleve or Naprosyn
- Aspirin (also a nonsteroidal
anti-inflammatory drug), such as Bayer or Bufferin
Talk to your child's doctor before switching back and
forth between doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. When you switch between two
medicines, there is a chance your child will get too much medicine.
| Be sure to follow these
safety tips when you use a nonprescription medicine:|
- Carefully read and follow all directions
on the medicine bottle and box.
- Do not take more than the
- Do not take a medicine if you have had an
allergic reaction to it in the past.
you have been told to avoid a medicine, call your doctor before you take
- If you are or could be pregnant, do not take any medicine other
than acetaminophen unless your doctor has told you to.
- Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than age 20 unless your doctor tells you to.
Symptoms to watch for during home treatment
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home
skin infection develops.
- A crusty blister
that drains honey-colored fluid develops.
- Signs of illness develop,
such as shaking chills, fever, belly pain, vomiting or diarrhea, muscle or
joint aches, headache, or a vague sense of illness.
- Symptoms do not
improve, or they become more severe or frequent.
Some of the most common types of blisters
can be prevented.
- To prevent blisters caused by rubbing (friction
- Avoid wearing shoes that are too tight or
that rub your feet. Roomy footwear has a wide toe box with more room for your
toes and the ball of your foot. You should be able to wiggle your toes in your
shoes. Foot size may vary half a size from the morning to the evening or after
a day at work, so purchase shoes at the end of the day when your feet are most
- Wear gloves to protect your hands when you are doing heavy
chores or yard work.
- Avoid contact with any plants or other substances
that are known to cause blistery rashes. For more information, see the topic
Poison Ivy, Oak, or Sumac.
- Avoid contact
with people who have infections that are known to cause blisters, such as:
- Viral illnesses, including
genital herpes infection, and
- Bacterial skin infection
- Scabies mite
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.
You can help your
doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to
answer the following questions:
- When did your blisters start?
- Did your blisters begin after an injury, such
cold injury or an insect or spider bite?
- Were you around someone
who had similar blisters before your blisters appeared? If so, what type of
contact did you have with that person?
- Did you come in contact with
something in the environment, such as
poison ivy, oak, or sumac, before the blisters
- Did any chemicals come in contact with your skin?
Chemicals include soap, laundry detergent, lotion, cosmetics, or
- Have you had these blisters before? If so, were
they diagnosed by your doctor? Did you have any treatment?
- Do your
blisters itch or hurt?
- What prescription or nonprescription
medicines are you taking? Are you using any ointments or salves?
you feel sick? If so, in what way? Do you have a fever?
- Have you
recently traveled outside your country or to a rural area or
- In which sports activities are you involved? How
- What home treatment have you tried? Did it
- Do you have any
|By: ||Healthwise Staff ||Current as of: June 4, 2014|
|Medical Review: ||William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine|
H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine