Should You Pop a Blister?

It's usually best to leave them alone

Most of the time, you shouldn't pop a blister. As natural bandages, blisters protect a damaged area, help promote healing, and prevent skin infection. That said, popping a blister may be recommended if a blister is big, painful, or is getting continually irritated.

How you pop a blister is important. Using improper techniques can cause harm to your skin and welcome in bacteria.

This article looks at when it might be appropriate to pop a blister, the safest procedure to use, and how to prevent a blister in the first place.

Blister on toe

Elen11 / Getty Images

What Is a Blister?

A blister is a pocket of fluid between two layers of skin. Blisters usually form when something rubs against your skin and irritates it, but they can occur for other reasons, too. Most blisters are quite painful, even when they’re not a serious medical issue.

Blister Type Matters

When deciding whether to pop a blister, you should take into account what type of blister you have. For example, a blister caused by tight shoes is safer to pop than, say, a blister from a burn or cold sore.

Read on to learn why popping anything other than a friction blister isn't a good idea, and what to do if you are dealing with something other than that.

Friction Blister 

OK to pop? Yes (in certain cases)

Friction blisters are among the most common blister types. They occur due to physical rubbing. Blisters on the feet, for example, are often caused by shoes that are too tight or too loose. 

A blister that's less than 5 millimeters (mm) is called a vesicle. A larger blister (more than 5mm) is called a bulla.

You want to avoid popping a friction blister unless it’s very large and impeding your usual activities. As with other blisters, popping a friction blister increases your risk of bacterial infection.

Burn Blister 

OK to pop? No

A second-degree burn can leave your skin to become discolored and blistered. While a small second-degree burn can sometimes be treated with first aid, a burn blister that covers a large area of skin requires medical treatment since it’s extremely prone to infection.

For this reason, you should avoid popping a burn blister, even a small one. If a burn blister pops on its own, remove the dead skin and keep the wound covered and moist. If you're having trouble keeping the area moist, you can use an antibiotic ointment.

Eczema Blister 

OK to pop? No

Eczema (atopic dermatitis) can cause irritation that leads to blisters. Blisters are also a symptom of some specific types of eczema. Dyshidrotic eczema, for example, causes very painful and itchy blisters, often on the hands and feet.

Because they’re intensely itchy, it can be difficult to avoid scratching eczema blisters. However, that can pop them and lead to infection, so try to avoid it.

Fever Blister or Cold Sore 

OK to pop? No

You shouldn’t pop fever blisters, also known as oral herpes or cold sores. Because they're highly contagious, you want to avoid touching them as much as possible so you don't spread the virus to other parts of your body or to other people.

These blisters eventually will break open on their own, crust over, and heal without any intervention on your part. 

Other strategies for managing discomfort and preventing transmission include:

  • Frequently washing your hands
  • Avoiding foods that will irritate the wound, such as salty, acidic, or spicy foods
  • Icing the painful area to numb it
  • Using over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications 
  • Using cold sore creams

Blood Blister 

OK to pop? No

A blood blister is almost the same as a friction blister, but instead of containing clear fluid (called serum), the blister is filled with blood.

Don't try to pop a blood blister. It will heal on its own. Along with possibly introducing bacteria, it can slow the healing process.

How to Safely Pop a Blister

If you have a very large friction blister that’s making it difficult to function, such as a massive one on the back of your heel that makes it hard to walk, carefully popping and draining the blister can help ease pain and discomfort.

To pop a blister:

  1. Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water.
  2. Carefully clean the area around the blister with mild soap and water. Then gently wipe the blister with alcohol or iodine and let it air dry.
  3. Sterilize a needle using rubbing alcohol or iodine.
  4. Gently pierce one side of the blister with the needle.
  5. Allow fluid to drain.
  6. Clean the area with antibacterial soap.
  7. Apply a lubricant such as petroleum jelly (like Vaseline). 
  8. Keep the skin on the blister to help protect the area during healing. Cover with a protective bandage.

To deal with smaller blisters, you can use store-bought moleskin or padded bandages to protect the area while the blister heals.

How to Tell If a Blister Is Infected

Whether your blister pops on its own or you decide to drain it yourself, keep an eye out for signs of infection:

  • Redness 
  • Increased pain 
  • Swelling
  • Pus drainage 
  • Fever 

Call your healthcare provider if you think your blister is infected.

How to Prevent Blisters

Blister prevention, specifically in the case of friction blisters, involves:

  • Making sure your shoes aren’t too tight or too loose
  • Making sure your shoes are breathable 
  • Wearing sweat-wicking socks 
  • Not using sports equipment or other handheld equipment without gloves or protective gear

Summary

Most of the time, popping a blister is a bad idea. Doing so can introduce bacteria and cause an infection. If you have a very big blister that’s making it hard to function, it’s okay to pop and drain it. Just make sure to maintain proper hygiene. This includes washing your hands, using a sterilized needle, and cleaning and bandaging the area afterward.

Don't pop blood blisters or blisters from burns, eczema, or fever blisters/cold sores.

You can prevent friction blisters by wearing shoes that fit well, keeping your feet try, and wearing protective gear when appropriate.

A Word From Verywell 

It might be hard to resist popping a blister. But don’t do it unless you really have to, and only if it is a friction blister. Always keep an eye on your blister to look for signs of infection. If you see redness or notice the area is hot to the touch, you might need antibiotic treatment. 

If you're not sure what kind of blister it is and it's bothering you, check with your healthcare provider before popping it.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Do blisters heal faster if you pop them?

    No. Popping a blister can actually prolong the healing process. 

  • What happens if you leave a blister unpopped?

    A blister forms to protect your skin. If you leave it alone, it should go away—your body will reabsorb the liquid and the area will heal.

  • How long does it take a blister to heal?

    Blisters, if left alone, usually heal on their own in a week or more, depending on their size.

  • What color should blister fluid be?

    Blister fluid is typically clear and watery. If it becomes infected, it may contain yellow or green pus and should be seen by a healthcare provider. The area will also be painful and hot.

10 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. New Zealand Trust: DermNet. Blistering skin conditions.

  2. National Institutes of Health, U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Blisters.

  3. University of California: UCI Health. Home burn care do's and don'ts.

  4. National Eczema Society. Pompholyx eczema.

  5. American Academy of Dermatology. Cold sores: Signs and symptoms.

  6. The University of Texas at Austin, University Health Services. Cold sores / fever blisters.

  7. American Academy of Dermatology Association. How to prevent and treat blisters.

  8. Seattle Children's Hospital. Wound infection.

  9. Harvard University Medical School, Harvard Health Publishing. Blisters (Overview).

  10. National Health Service: NHS Inform. Blisters.

By Steph Coelho
Steph Coelho is a freelance health writer, web producer, and editor based in Montreal. She specializes in covering general wellness and chronic illness.