Statement Describing the Challenge

Blisters are translucent bumps in the upper layers of skin filled with fluid. This defense mechanism shields the soft tissue underneath the skin from damage by keeping a layer of serum between the epidermis and the dermis. Often painful to the touch, these “derma-bubbles” have a large range in causes and treatments although the majority of blisters will fade with time. Anyone of any age can get blisters, although those with especially sensitive, soft or moist skin have an increased risk of receiving them. While there is a large number of reasons for a blister’s appearance, the different types and thus the treatments, can be identified by paying attention to the blister’s size, location, color and by narrowing down the suspect causes. The most common type of blister is caused by friction between the skin and something else, such as a sandal strap or a gardening glove. Warm temperatures and moist skin increase the likelihood of blisters in an area. If the rubbing continues over a long period of time, the spot on the skin where blisters tend to occur will begin to callus, or form tough skin, lessening the possibility of blisters. Wearing shoes and socks that fit well, also reduce blistering on feet, the most typical place to get them. Extreme temperature is another factor that can cause blisters to appear on the skin. Intense heat such as fire or sunburn can give skin a second degree burn that will cause painful blisters to appear in clusters on the affected area. Likewise, exposure to severe cold can frostbite skin and cause blisters to form. Spider bites, most commonly from the Brown Recluse Spider, can cause painful sores at the bite site that can last for months. Contact with poison ivy, oak or sumac causes rashes and sometimes blisters to appear on the skin. Infections and diseases including chickenpox, shingles, herpes, impetigo, folliculitis, and scabies can also cause blisters. However, depending on the disease, the blisters will have different properties such as itchiness, redness or clustering. While there have been a variety of home treatments devised over the centuries guaranteed to cure blisters, some of them are as effective as standing under a full moon in a large bucket of eels, so be careful when taking advice from untested sources. Do not try to pop the blister unless you are sure it will break, at which point you should wash your hands, and taking a disinfected needle poke a hole on the side of the blister, drain the fluid and then apply a band-aid. If it is less than 1in. across it will heal on its own within 1-2 weeks. If your blister has not healed after three weeks, if it is extremely painful, if it is filled with blood or pus, or if you think it looks questionable do not hesitate to seek professional help from a doctor as blisters can become easily infected or indicate an underlying disease. As always, prevention is the key to avoiding these generally harmless but painful skin bubbles. It is easier to prevent them than heal them. Wear blister block band-aids in places you risk blisters. If your heel begins to burn while hiking, take off your shoe and check to see if you are forming a blister and then apply moleskin or a band-aid and stop hiking. Do not walk around in sandals that have already given you painful blisters, since chances are they will do it again. Avoid extreme temperatures, people with contagious blister causing diseases and stay away from poisonous plants or spiders. As in all things, common sense should prevail when dealing with blisters.

Non-Drug Treatments

• Doughnut-shaped moleskin pad • Band-aid application • Do not further aggravate a friction blister by continuing to rub against the area • Apply a loose bandage • Do not break the blister

Alternative Medicine Treatments

• Wash it with soap and water • Apply a cool washcloth to blister and dab dry • Rub garlic oil, vitamin E, zinc, or aloe vera on infected blisters

Drug Therapy

• Apply topical antibiotics (Bacitracin, Neosporin) to the affected area • Band-Aid Advanced Healing Blister cushions Will not treat the blister, but will reduce pain: • Acetaminophen (Tylenol, Panadol) • Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) • Naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn) • Aspirin (Bayer, Bufferin)