After getting cellulitis in both ankles, I will forever take blister care more seriously. Part of the reason I ended up with this infection is because I skipped the simple step of cleaning my wounds before putting a bandage on it. To people in the medical field or those who are just more diligent than I, not cleaning a wound seems ridiculous.
However, how many times have I had a blister, cut, scrap etc and not cleaned it and not gotten an infection? Too many times to count. However, it took getting one infection to change my lackadaisical approach to blisters.
In an effort to help both you and I out, I asked my friend Toni Church, a nurse who blogs at Running, Loving, and Living to answer a few questions and give us proper instruction on how to care for blisters.
Toni has been an nurse for 10 years and has worked in the medical field for 18 years. She currently works in dialysis, spent two years in a medical-surgical unit and six years in home care. While working in home care she provided wound care for patience on a daily basis.
Why is blister care so important?
Blister care, or any wound care for that matter, is important to avoid an infection. As you recently have experienced if bacteria makes it’s way into a blister or a wound an infection or cellulitis can occur. The only way to effectively treat cellulitis is with antibiotics and when oral antibiotics aren’t strong enough they need to be given via an IV which requires hospitalization.
How easy is it for a blister to become infected?
If the blister remains intact, the risk of infection is pretty slim. It is when he blister breaks or “pops” that the risk for infection significantly increases because now there is an open entry for bacteria to enter the wound.
What are the proper steps for managing a blister? Is it different if the blister is popped vs fully intact?
The first step in blister management is to avoid breaking the blister if at all possible. Protect the area with a heavy gauze and leave the blister intact, eventually the fluid will reabsorb and the area will heal without any treatment. Keeping the blister intact is the best case scenario, unfortunately the majority of the time blisters are in areas, like the bottom of your feet, that make this impossible.
If the blister does break follow these guidelines
- Make sure you clean the area with soap and water or Normal Saline.
- Avoid products like peroxide and Betadine as recent studies have shown that they actually can cause damage to good tissue.
- You can apply some antibiotic ointment to the area (if you have it) and cover it with a Non-stick dressing or bandaid.
- Make use you use non-stick or else the dressing will stick to the wound and it will be quite painful to remove.
- Clean the area and change the dressing daily, more often if you notice a lot of drainage. If you leave a dirty dressing in place this can also contribute to infection.
What about chaffing? Can chaffed areas get infected as easily as a blister can?
Chafed areas do not tend to get infected as often as blisters because is more of an irritation of the skin rather than a large open wound. If you care for the chaffed area by cleaning it with soap and water and protecting it from further injury it is likely to heal without an issue.
Is there anything else people should take into consideration when dealing with blisters?
Seek professional treatment if you see any signs of infection including redness, swelling, hot to touch, foul odor or fever and chills.