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Prevention and treatment of blisters

From walking to hiking to shooting hoops, physical activity can trigger blisters. So, how can you prevent them? And, once you get them, how should you treat them?

Blisters form from friction. When skin rubs against another surface, the top layers of skin tear and create a space for fluid to accumulate. The soles of the feet and palms of the hands are prime sites for blisters to form. First, you're likely to rub footwear or hand-held equipment (i.e., rackets, bats, etc) against these areas. And secondly, hands and feet tend to sweat – this warm, moist area is ripe for blister formation.

Blister prevention starts with decreasing the amount of sweat and friction to your skin. Recommendations include:

  • Wearing proper fitting footwear. Break in new footwear by wearing them for a couple hours the first day, and then gradually increase their use day-to-day.
  • Socks can help to decrease friction and moisture, especially those made of a material that pulls moisture away from the skin. Double layering of your socks can also help to decrease friction.
  • Another trick to decrease moisture is to use drying agents, like foot powder or cornstarch, to keep your feet dry.

If you develop a blister, focus on decreasing the pain and preventing it from getting larger. Prompt treatment of your blister will help to get you back to your activity sooner. Specific blister treatment depends on the actual size of the blister.

  • Small blisters can be covered with a bandage.
  • Large or painful blisters should be protected with a donut.

A donut is a pad that provides protection from any rubbing of the blister during activity. To make a donut, take a piece of padded material and cut it into a circle. Then, cut a smaller circle (approximately the size of your blister) out of the center to create a pad that looks like a donut. After securing the donut around the blister, you're ready to return to action.

For additional questions on blisters, other sports medicine topics or to schedule a Free Injury Evaluation, call the Aurora Sports Medicine Hotline™ at 414-219-7776 or 800-219-7776.