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Backpacker Magazine – September 2005

The Cure: Beating Blisters

Catch the hot spot before it's too late

by: The Backpacker Editors


Heavy all-leather waffle stompers may have gone the way of the dodo bird, but blisters, alas, have not. Friction, pressure, poor fit, and wet socks still combine to create irritating hot spots. To protect the skin on your heels and toes, follow these tips.

PREVENTION

» Good advice is worth repeating: The best way to prevent blisters is to wear boots that fit-with room to move your toes and without heel slippage.

» Wear wool or synthetic socks (read: not cotton) that wick away moisture. Or try a silk or polypro liner under a hiking sock so that friction occurs between sock layers instead of against your skin.

» Trade down to lighter boots. Many of today's high-tech low-tops have enough sole support to handle 40-pound loads, but flexible uppers that are gentler on your feet.

» That said, don't skip the break-in. It's still wise to wear new shoes around the house and on dayhikes before a multiday trip.

» Run interference on hot spots. As soon as you feel a burning sensation, cover the spot with moleskin or duct tape.

TREATMENT

» Pop a blister before it breaks inside your sweaty, dirty sock. Clean the area, then pierce the roof of the blister with a sterile needle and massage out the fluid. Keep the roof intact to protect the skin underneath.

» Cut a hole in a piece of moleskin or foam just larger than the blister. Apply antibiotic ointment, then tincture of benzoin on the clean, dry skin around the blister; this common antiseptic boosts the stickiness of tape and bandages. Wait 15 seconds, then affix the moleskin donut so the hole creates a pressure-free pocket around the sore. Apply a second layer as needed to keep direct pressure off the blister. Seal with a "lid" of moleskin, and cover the entire patch with duct or athletic tape.

» Keep a bandage in place for up to 3 days, then wash and retape. If the area is red, swollen, or leaking pus, it's infected. Keep it dressed; if the infection persists for more than a few days, see a doctor.



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READERS COMMENTS

Steve
Jul 24, 2012

I agree with the article Jacob, just relax man...go scouting!

Old Scouting Bear
May 14, 2012

I have spent over 55 years in Scouting, over 20 years as a Red Cross First Aid Instructor, and close to 20 years as an EMT. As such, I am disturbed by what this article implies.
From what you write, I would infer that If I get a blister, I should immediately lance it by sticking a needle right into the top!
WRONG! [Don't believe me? Ask your doctor!]
1. Protect the blister. Use padding. If need be, use a thick mole-skin-like pad with a hole in it to relieve the pressure on it and to protect it from further irritation. If you lance or pop it, you leave a possible path for infection!
2. As a FINAL LAST RESORT, you may lance it. If you must do so, clean it the best you can, using a germicide if possible, then lance it with a sterile needle [flame it if needed]. When you lance it, lance FROM THE SIDE, and AT THE BASE of the blister. Next, apply something like Neosporin, or some other germicidal ointment, and cover with a sterile dressing.

Of course, the best way to treat a blister is to avoid it. Have you ever tried 2 layers of sox? That way the cloth rubs another layer of cloth and reduces chafing. ..... jut a thought. ......

alison
Apr 01, 2008

If you look at my feet the wrong way I'll get a blister. I recently discovered Band Aid brand blister pads. They are a gummy, plastiky, sticky pad that stays on for days-even when they get wet. My blisters don't bother me at all with one of these on and I've taken to carrying them with me every where.

Jacob Henke
Mar 19, 2008

Another way to treat a blister is with a needle threaded with waxed dental floss. Put the needle and floss though the base of the entire blister. Trim the floss ends ~ 1/8 inch. The floss keeps the blister drained and keeps it from tearing. The skin sticks back to your foot and you can keep hiking. After the blister heels, pull out the floss, the wax keeps it from sticking too badly in your foot.

Thank you to the the guy at Granite Park Chalet in Glacier National Park for telling me this.

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