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Blisters

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 3 minutes read
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A blister occurs when fluid collects in a pocket between two of the upper layers of the skin. It's very common and most often a result of friction such as shoes rubbing on the skin of your heel. The fluid that fills a blister is serum, the liquid part of blood.

There can be other causes for blisters, such as a burn, abrasive substances, and sometimes viruses or medical conditions can cause blistering.

Blisters should go away within seven days and the majority can be treated at home. Blisters caused by friction or heat or toxic substances are not contagious. Blisters caused by some viral infections (such as impetigo, herpes, shingles and chickenpox) can be contagious.

Blisters on the feet are the most common type of blister and there are a number of reasons why these typically form:

  • Poorly fitting shoes that rub your feet

  • Wearing high heels that put pressure onto one part of the foot

  • Wearing shoes with no socks, or wearing socks that are too large and have wrinkles in them

  • Having hot or sweaty feet

Doctor’s advice

Next steps

If the blister is caused by friction, avoid popping the blister as it is protecting the damaged skin underneath from infection and will allow the skin underneath to heal over the course of a week. (You may sometimes need to prick a blister with a clean needle if the blister is so large it makes wearing shoes impossible). If you can’t remove the cause of the friction then you can purchase blister plasters from the pharmacy which will help protect the area from further damage. Leave any blister plaster on until it falls off on its own.

If the blister is caused by a burn, cool the area, make sure it is clean and put a sterile dressing on. If you have blistered skin from a burn, it would be best to see your practice nurse or doctor.

Healthwords pharmacists' top tips

There are different types of blister products to both treat blisters and prevent them from forming. Some products can be placed directly onto the blistered skin to provide moisture and protection, such as Compeed blister plasters that contain gel to cushion and comfort. Other types may be placed inside the shoe, such as a gel cushion on the inside of the heel or Achilles tendon to provide cushioning and support.

If you continue to suffer with this problem, it may be worth booking an appointment to see a podiatrist to investigate any other issues that may be causing the problem.

When should I see my doctor?

You should see your doctor as soon as possible if the blister is extremely painful, looks infected (yellow pus inside it and red around the area), if the blister is a result of a mild burn (including from corrosive substances) or if the blister or blisters have occurred without a cause. If it is a result of a severe burn or if you feel unwell then you should call 911 or go to your emergency department.

Am I fit for work?

You are fit for work if you have a simple blister.

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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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