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Find out how to treat a blister and how to avoid them on your next hike!
Blisters are an almost inevitable injury for hikers. "Almost" yes, because here we give you our tips on how to avoid getting one. And if it's too late, here's how to treat it!
First of all, what is a blister or a phlyctene? These words mean the same thing, a lifting of the skin forming a bubble which contains a liquid called "serosity". How to treat it?
If the area of friction is red, but not detached from the skin, wash it with warm water and soap before applying an anti-irritation, anti-friction or healing cream. This may be enough for a small blister. If the area is a little larger and more painful, opt instead for a special blister plaster, also known as a "hydrocolloid" plaster, which will protect the area from friction and help the blister to heal.
If your skin is whitish, even reddish, and above all, if it has lifted up and contains a liquid: say hello to the good old blister! On the right, you’re told to pierce it; on the left, don't touch it... Who's right? Don't move, we'll help you in the next paragraph and I promise we won't talk politics. ;)
As mentioned above, when the blister is very small, one or two millimetres, you can simply apply a plaster and in a week or ten days it will have disappeared!
If the blister is large and swollen:
When the blister is larger, up to several centimetres, it is advisable to burst it. But not just any old way! Take a disinfected needle and pierce your blister in two different areas: the liquid will drain on its own. Once the liquid is completely out, it's important to leave the skin on! It protects your mucous membrane and helps it to heal properly. Disinfect the pierced blister and apply a special blister plaster. As the days go by, your skin renews itself underneath the loose blister skin, which will eventually fall off.
If the blister skin is torn:
Even if the blister skin gets damaged and torn by a lot of movement and rubbing, don't touch it! Granted, it's not easy to resist. It's a bit like the skin that peels after sunburn, and you really want to peel it off, but that would be a waste of your efforts to treat it properly. Above all, you run the risk of infecting the area and recreating rubbing or pain... which we prefer to avoid. Instead, let your body do the work and the skin will fall off on its own when the time is right!
To disinfect your blister, you can use a standard local antiseptic or one that contains iodine. You know, the famous yellow disinfectant! It's important to use a disinfectant that's suitable for blisters and not to use alcohol on damaged skin. Instead, choose a water-based solution such as the well-known antiseptics you find in pharmacies. Forget hydro-alcoholic gel or any other substance "with alcohol in it, it will disinfect" but hurt you even more!
If your blister is small and closed, you can apply a soothing and healing cream that you can find in pharmacies, but a special blister plaster may be enough to protect it from rubbing. We recommend you leave it in the open air as soon as possible to speed up the healing process, and if you've followed this advice correctly, you know not to pierce it! ;)
A wide variety of natural remedies for treating blisters can often be heard or found on the internet, such as drops of lavender essential oil, clay or even aloe vera. Before trying any of these preparations, we recommend that you seek the advice of a health professional, at your local pharmacy for example! We are never safe from a bad reaction. And if you can't get there because of those pesky blisters, a phone call will always do the trick. ;)
Once the blister has been properly treated, washed, disinfected and, in the case of larger blisters, the liquid removed, it will dry out and heal within one to two weeks.
If, despite your care or lack of care, your blister doesn't heal, is painful, contains pus and/or you are suffering from a fever, this is a sign of infection. Don't wait any longer, go and see a doctor. He or she will be able to give you the care you need.
You should take extra precautions if you suffer from diabetes or an immune deficiency, as the risk of infection is multiplied. If this applies to you, we strongly recommend that you have your blister treatment monitored by a healthcare professional.
Don't wait for the blister to form - preventive anti-blister dressings and plasters are available. You can even apply anti-friction cream: if you're used to blisters, you know your sensitive areas!
If you haven't thought about it before, as soon as you feel pain due to rubbing and the area becomes red and irritated, apply a plaster! Choose specific blister plasters that act like a second skin. You will find them in all pharmacies. This is one of the essential items in your first aid kit when you go hiking or trekking. You'll be able to prove your grandmother right when she tells you her old saying: "prevention is better than cure!" Speaking of prevention, here are some other essential tips for avoiding these infamous blisters you never want to see.
From the moment you choose your footwear, you need to do everything you can to avoid repeated rubbing. Of course, don't skip the fitting stage and, if possible, do it at the end of the day so that your feet are already slightly swollen. No pun intended, but you need to find a shoe that fits! You need to feel comfortable, with no hard points or friction. little tips: don't listen to your friend who has kindly agreed to accompany you, but who doesn't always give you good advice when they say: "don't worry, the shoe will fit".
Next, avoid wearing new shoes for too long. Instead, wear them a little at a time to soften them and check there is no discomfort. If despite this breaking in period any discomfort persists then apply adhesive protection as a preventive measure.
During activity it's essential to lace up your shoes properly! To avoid blisters, you need to keep your feet firmly fixed and supported in your shoes.
For hiking, choose high socks, or at least socks that are higher than your shoes so as not to rub against your skin. To minimise the risk of blisters, you can also choose seamless socks with extra layers in sensitive areas such as the heels and the front of your feet.
When it comes to material, synthetic can be a good option! This material wicks away perspiration, dries quickly and is also more resistant. For winter, you can opt for Merino wool, preferably mixed with other materials to wick away perspiration more easily. Merino wool is comfortable, thermo-regulating and anti-bacterial. And with the added bonus of limiting unpleasant odours, it's a treat for your nostrils!
For more advice on socks, it's all in this article: “How to choose hiking socks?”
For running, socks should be thin and ventilated to wick away perspiration and moisture. They should also be size-appropriate, and if possible asymmetrical for a better fit. They have an elasticated area in the middle of the foot to keep them in place and prevent creases. There are also socks made from special materials to reduce the risk of friction.
And don't forget gaiters, which can be used as a trail guard to prevent harmful debris from getting in your shoes. Even better!
You’re involved in an event or route which, because of its duration or conditions (heat, humidity), exposes you to the risk of foot burns. The ideal thing to do is to tan the skin to make it supple and resistant. To do this, three weeks before your event, alternate every other day between rubbing your feet with lemon juice (to strengthen your skin) and applying a moisturising cream. There are also ready-to-use tanning specialities available.
Before and during activity, apply a thick layer of moisturising cream to your feet, unless the route conditions are wet or sandy. If possible, change your socks or even your shoes during the event.
You now have the best tips for avoiding and treating those blisters that can easily cloud enjoyable times. So remember to make the right choice of equipment, prepare your feet to strengthen your skin, and pack your first aid kit. One foot in front of the other, and that's all there is to it!