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First Aid For Blisters:

How To Treat Foot Blisters

Knowing how to give first aid for blisters might make the difference between a successful family camping trip and a miserable experience for everyone.

A blister seems like such a tiny thing, but it can really hurt! Left unattended, a blister can become infected and turn into a huge problem.

Foot blisters are the most common blisters in my camping experience.

What causes blisters on feet?

A blister is actually a burn!

Like any other burn, it is caused by heat. The heat that causes a blister burn is caused by the friction of skin rubbing against a hard surface, like a boot or a shovel handle.

Blisters on feet are usually caused by poorly-fitting footwear which rubs against a foot.

The friction causes heat, and the heat creates tissue damage, leaky capillaries and swelling - just as in a burn caused by hot water or fire.

The best thing to do, of course, is to prevent blisters altogether.

Preventing a blister means that you'll never have to use first aid for blisters.

Click here to learn how to prevent getting blisters on your feet.

What if you end up with a blister in spite of my good advice and your good intentions? You can minimize your discomfort and infection by dealing with it promptly.

How to Treat a Blister

The first step in first aid for blisters is to keep the blister from breaking.

Small blisters

Cover small blisters with a moleskin or gel dressing. Buy these at a well-stocked drugstore and make sure you put some in your first aid kit.

Large blisters

If the blister is large, you want to take the pressure off it and prevent it from breaking.

Cut a donut-shaped pad from moleskin and place it over the blister.

Should you break a blister?

Probably not.

It depends on the size of the blister, your activity, and where the blister is situated.

If it isn't broken, there is no danger that a blister will become infected. Your skin is protecting you, even though it is stretched over a bag of fluid. The "skin roof" of the blister is a sterile enclosure that keeps germs out.

If possible, keep that skin intact.

Here's the exception:

If you know that the blister is going to break, you should break the blister yourself.

Perhaps you have to continue hiking and the blister will continue to be rubbed.

Breaking it in a controlled way is better than letting it break on its own.

How to break a blister

  • Sterilize a needle or a sharp blade  - by rinsing it with alcohol or by holding it in a flame until it glows red-hot. (Let it cool before proceeding!)
  • Clean the skin over and around the blister with alcohol or soap and water.
  • Puncture the skin at the lower edge of the blister, making just a tiny hole and leaving the skin intact.
  • Let the fluid drain out.
  • Leave the skin intact.

Follow the directions below for avoiding infection.

Avoiding infection

If worse comes to worst and a blister does break on its own (or if you decide to break it yourself), you need to deal with it promptly to avoid infection.

  • Cut away any dead skin.
  • Rinse the area with clean water to remove any dirt and debris.
  • Wash with soap and water.
  • Apply antibiotic ointment if you choose.
  • Cover with a sterile dressing.
  • Keep the area scrupulously clean to avoid infection.
  • Remove the dressing daily to check for signs of infection. Clean the area and reapply the dressing.

Use these same first aid for blisters principles on any part of the body.

Now you know how to do first aid for blisters - but more importantly, you know how to prevent blisters from forming in the first place!

Now that you know about first aid for blisters, visit this page to learn more basic first aid instructions for camping.

Planning ahead is the key to a successful camping trip! Visit the Complete Family Camping Guide home page for help with planning every aspect of your next trip.

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