A blister is a small pocket of fluid within the upper layers of the skin. They are usually filled with a clear fluid called serum or plasma, however, they can also be filled with blood or pus. Blisters are caused by 3 things: moisture, friction and heat. Although blisters can occur on any part of the body, the primary locations of concern for campers are the hands and feet.
- Most blisters do not require a doctor’s care. New skin will form underneath the blister and the fluid is simply absorbed.
- Do not remove the skin over the blister – it protects the new skin underneath
- Signs of infection – pus drainage, red or warm skin surrounding the blister, red streaks leading from the blisterBlister has torn – cut away loose skin and treat with antiseptic
- Dry broken blister in the open air
- When hiking – put a dressing over a torn blister
- Moleskin – cut a moleskin doughnut and place it around but not on the blister
- Keep it clean and protected
Don’t Puncture (mostly)
- Do not puncture a blister unless it is large, painful, or likely to be further irritated. The fluid-filled blister keeps the underlying skin clean reduces infection and promotes healing.
If you must drain a blister, consider the following:
- Wash area thoroughly
- Pierce it from the side with a sterile needle
- Sterilize needle – put the point in flame until it is red hot and/or rinse in alcohol
- Let the fluid drain or gently squeeze – the fluid should be clear
- Apply antiseptic and dressing
- Fluid is white or yellow – it may be infected and needs medical attention
When you are 3 days from civilization, blisters make your trip home very difficult – prevention is key in the great outdoors.
To prevent blisters consider the following:
- Wear paddle gloves – paddling can be hard on the hands
- Break in new hiking boots gradually – over similar terrain, for several weeks and many kilometers
- Well-fitting hiking boots – they should not chafe or have pressure points.
- Gaiters – reduce water and debris from entering your boots
- Quality footbeds – they will reduce foot fatigue and keep your foot where it should be
- Socks – thick and well-fitted. Wool or quality synthetic – never cotton.
- Liner socks – thin synthetic socks worn layered under your hiking socks. Reduces moisture and friction
- Change socks often – at lunch clean and dry feet and then change into a dry pair of socks
- Remove debris now – when debris gets in your boot, remove it as soon as possible – never delay
- Change your hiking pace – change friction points
- Change boot tightness – changes pressure points
- Hot spots – at first signs, stop immediately and cover them with moleskin
- Duct tape – an alternative to moleskin. HINT…if you are prone to blisters, before the hike apply duct tape directly on the foot where likely hot spots could occur. The tape will stay attached all day and will prevent blisters or hotspots.
IMPORTANT – The procedures described on this website are not a substitute for medical, first aid or CPR training. Always seek treatment from a trained medical professional whenever possible.