Blisters: Don’t Let Them Slow You Down!
When we think of sports injuries, our minds jump to strains, sprains and even breaks. But the lowly blister is responsible for putting athletes, from the recreational to the professional, out of commission as well. Just think of marathon runners, tennis players, soccer players, golfers, hikers, rowers, weightlifters and crossfit athletes. These guys and gals get blisters on their feet and hands regularly. The internet is full of blogs where professionals share their stories and advice on how to treat blisters.
What Is A Blister?
A blister is a sac of serum, plasma, blood or pus that forms between the upper layers of skin to help protect and cushion the layers below. Blisters can appear as one circular bubble or as a cluster of bumps.
There are a number of causes of and types of blisters. The main ones are friction, burns, frostbite and certain medical conditions, such as contact dermatitis or the chickenpox.
Athletes suffer from blisters caused by friction.
A friction blister comes about when the layers of skin rub against each other and separate. The plasma fluid which fills the blister protects the area and encourages the growth of new skin. As the new skin forms, the fluid slowly disappears and the old skin will dry and peel off.
Popping a blister is generally not recommended because the wound will be open and could become infected.
Once a blister has formed, it is best to just cover it up with a band-aid, gauze or a donut-shaped piece of moleskin. You can also help it heal by putting on hydrogen peroxide and an antibiotic ointment. Popular home remedies include aloe vera gel, witch hazel, green tea, apple cider vinegar and castor oil.
If the blister does pop, leave on the dead skin. It will provide some protection as the new skin forms underneath. Allow the fluid to drain off, then wash the area with mild, soapy water and apply a sterile, dry dressing.
When To See A Doctor
According to WebMd.com, you should see a doctor if you have signs of a virus or infection while you have the blister. These signs include: fever, chills, or flu-like symptoms, pain, swelling, redness or warmth, red streaks leading away from the blister or pus coming from it.
You will know a blister is forming because there will be a “hot spot” - that place on your foot or hand that starts to feels pain because of friction. To prevent a friction blister, remove the cause of friction. Here are some examples:
- Wear shoes that fit well and break them in before wearing them for an extended period of time. This prevents rubbing.
- Wear socks. Especially when performing exercise and doing sports. Wear socks that reduce sweat (moisture-wicking socks) or change socks frequently.
- Use a lubricant or powder to reduce friction.
- Wear gloves when using tools, doing manual work or playing a sport that involves holding a bat or stick.
- Tape your feet or hands to prevent friction. For example, runners and hikers should tape toes, heels or other parts of their feet that rub against shoes. Gymnasts, weightlifters and rowers can tape up their hands.
Taping options range from duct tape through paper tape. One very effective one is kinesiology tape. This flexible tape permits a full range of motion. At the same time it is latex free and stays in place through sweat and activity. Kinesiology tape has been recommended by several athletes.
John Vonhof is a certified paramedic and orthopaedic technician with over 18 years experience as a runner and hiker. He has written a book called Fixing Your Feet, in which he shares his wealth of knowledge about caring for your feet. He is a big fan of kinesiology tape, saying: “I like this tape for most taping techniques. Here’s why:
- It has a much smoother texture and is far easier to apply.
- It’s very sticky and has a nice longitudinal stretch and is resilient.
- It can be used on the toes, unlike Elastikon, which is too abrasive for toes and may blister the toe next to it.
- It’s much easier to work with.”
In his blog he also shares his taping techniques.
Members of The Great Outdoors website recommend kinesiology tape to help prevent blisters while backpacking.
Taping with kinesiology tape was one of the recommendation to help prevent blisters on the reddit rowing site.
Here is a video on how to properly tape your hands for CrossFit workouts.
Blisters may not be as dramatic as other sports injuries. But in their own quiet way they can cause quite a bit of pain and keep you from participating. And if they are not cared for properly, they can become infected. So don’t let blisters slow you down! Use these tips to prevent and treat them.