Wilderness First Aid Q&A

How to treat a blister


Q:  Should I pop a blister and, if so, is there a “best” way to do it?

A:  Ideally, you want to prevent blisters from happening in the first place.  The next best thing is to try to leave good skin intact because it is the best “bio-dressing” you could possibly ever have.

Sometimes these options are not possible, and the blister may get so painful that it interferes with your ability to function (e.g., walking, gripping a canoe paddle, skiing, etc.).  Repetitive trauma to the affected skin can also cause the blister to get larger.  When this happens you have to consider taking matters into your own hands – so to speak:

1.  First, wash your hands and “glove-up” if possible.

2.  Next, clean the area to be treated with an antiseptic, soap and water, or whatever you have that works.

3.  Sterilize a pin with flame or rubbing alcohol (remember that rubbing alcohol is flammable, so be careful!).

4.  You want to leave as much of the skin intact as possible, so avoid piercing the blister from the top.  Instead, insert the pin into the side of the blister.

5.  With the blister “popped,” take some gauze and gently push down on the blister to help squeeze out the fluid.

6.  Now, make sure the area is clean.  Bandage up the area as best as possible and pile on the protective padding.   Make every attempt to minimize further injury to the area.  Keep it clean and try to rest it for as long as possible.

7.  Tylenol or Motrin can help with pain. Note: You’ll need parental consent to take medication at a Scout event.

You should be pain-free and back at the backcountry in no time!

For more information check out the following video on Blister Prevention and Management from our Outdoor Channel show:

Comments about “How to treat a blister”

  1. BearLeader says:

    These are great, but would be great if they had a link to open up a printable copy.

  2. Jamwam says:

    cool that realy helps

  3. yo yo master says:

    gross it sounds painful to pop it :( :P :o

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  • Dr. Andrew C. Krakowski is the host of the boonDOCS Wilderness & Travel Medicine show on Outdoor Channel. He is the founder of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine's wilderness medicine program and currently works in the field of pediatric dermatology at the Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego.

    Dr. K loves the outdoors and believes that knowledge, adaptability, and experience are essential for being prepared in the wilderness.

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