Should you 'pop' a blister?

Almost everyone experiences a water blister at one time or another. A pair of new shoes rubs the wrong way on your ankle. Or an afternoon of raking causes a painful blister on your hand.

Blisters — fluid-filled bubbles caused by rubbing and friction — can be irritating, painful and hard to ignore.

What should you do if you have one?

Leaving a blister intact

If your blister isn't too painful, leave the fluid-filled bubble intact. Unbroken skin over a blister provides a natural barrier to infection as the skin heals.

Protect an intact blister by covering it with a bandage. If you need even more protection, cut a piece of thicker, cushioned padding — like moleskin — into a donut shape. Then place the pad so it circles your blister and cover it with a bandage.

How to drain a blister

For a more painful blister, you may prefer to drain it. Follow these steps:

  • Step 1: Sanitize. Wash your hands and the blister site with soap and warm water. Swab the blister area with rubbing alcohol or iodine. Sterilize a clean needle the same way.
  • Step 2: Puncture. Using the needle, poke a few holes near the blister's edge. Let the fluid drain. Leave the skin covering it as a protective barrier.
  • Step 3: Protect. Apply an ointment like petroleum jelly or zinc oxide. Then cover your blister with a bandage. (There's no need to use an antibiotic ointment if you use petroleum jelly or zinc oxide.)
  • Step 4: Watch. Check the blister each day for signs of infection, like pus, odor, redness, increasing pain or warm skin. See your doctor if an infection appears to be developing.

    You can usually cut away the dead skin after a few days with a sterilized tweezers and scissors. The dead skin may also fall off on its own. Apply more ointment and a bandage afterward for continued healing.

When to see a doctor

Some people should see a doctor when they get blisters. Reach out to your doctor if you have diabetes, poor circulation, a neuropathy or trouble with wound healing.

  1. Health tips: Blister care. Mayo Clinic Health Letter. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. March 2019:3