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How to prevent and treat Blisters

Blisters are a very common complaint in sport, particularly at this time of the year with the start of the new season approaching and the ground is still relatively hard. This article talks about how to prevent, treat and care for blisters caused by sport.

What is a blister?

A blister is a fluid filled sack that forms beneath the upper layers of skin. They are painful and uncomfortable and can have a big effect on sports performance, particularly if they are on the feet or hands.

What causes a blister?

A blister is caused by trauma to the upper layers of skin, normally as a result of a burn. In sport, the most common cause of blisters is friction burns from footwear or equipment rubbing against the skin. This is exacerbated by moisture from sweat or weather conditions.

How to prevent blisters?

Blisters are not easy to prevent in sport but there are steps that you can take to reduce the chance of getting one. The most common cause of blisters in sport is from your footwear. Ensuring your footwear fits correctly is the first step to preventing blisters. Your footwear should not rub or move excessively during activity, and it is often a good idea to “Wear In” footwear before doing rigorous activity. This could include wearing them around the house for a week or so, or going out for short walks. Your socks will also have a huge impact on your susceptibility to blisters. Boots and trainers are not designed to be worn against the skin, and so your socks should act as protection against the harsher material of your footwear. Your socks need to reduce friction and provide adequate moisture wicking if they are going to help prevent blisters, and most cheap sports socks do not offer this level of protection. If you find you are getting blisters on your feet, it is definitely worth investing in some more expensive sport socks which are often made of materials that reduce friction and remove sweat from the skin. If you find that a particular place is more susceptible to blistering, you can protect that area with tape and strapping. Zinc Oxide Tape, for example, is very hard wearing and will provide a protective layer over the skin to stop rubbing. Particularly if you use a Rayon coated tape such as the Premium Zinc Oxide which will reduce friction. Underwrap is also very useful for providing an extra layer of protection and padding to sore or blister-prone areas. Note: Do not use sticky tape directly over the top of an established hurts just thinking about it.. Lubricating areas where your shoes or clothing or equipment rub against the skin is a very effective method of preventing blisters. Petroleum jelly is the most effective and is found in most people’s bathrooms, but you can also get handy Lube Sticks that are often less messy and you can carry them around in your kit bag.

How to treat a blister?

Blisters do heal naturally over time and there is no specific medical treatment available that will heal the blister, however you can speed up the process by protecting the area and preventing damage or infection. First of all DO NOT POP A BLISTER, no matter how tempting this might be. The water filled sack is the body’s natural healing mechanism so you are only going to prolong the injury by popping the blister. It also makes the area prone to infection. If the blister grows too large, causing pain or making it difficult to function, your doctor may syringe some fluid out in a sterile environment. Covering the blister with a plaster will help to protect the area if the blister is small enough. You can get Hydrocolloid blister plasters which stay in place for up to a week and provide a gel-like coating which can be absorbed into the skin, often drastically reducing the recovery time and providing pain relief. If the area is larger, use gauze as a padding to protect it.