One of the most common misconceptions in wound healing today is around the benefits of moist versus dry. Without doubt, for open wounds, moist is best for speed of healing. But what about blisters? Should a blister be exposed to the air to allow it to dry out, or covered up?

There’s a lot of advice saying leave it open.

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Blisters - let it breathe

The Claim: Your Blister Needs Air To Help It Dry Out and Heal Faster

It’s incorrect.

To understand why opening your blister up to the air to dry out is either counterproductive or inconsequential, you must remember there are three types of blisters, and address them separately. So let’s do just that.

 

1) Deroofed Blisters

In an insightful article titled Clearing The Air About Moist Vs. Dry Wound Healing, Bruce Ruben MD discusses the role of exudate in wound healing. For example, deroofed blisters – where the roof has disappeared and you’re left with a weepy raw blister base. Here’s what he has to say:

“In this environment, the wound exudate, the moisture that naturally seeps out from a wound site, serves as a transport vehicle for a variety of bioactive molecules such as enzymes, growth factors and hormones. The different cells in the wound area communicate with each other via these mediators, ensuring that the healing processes proceed in a coordinated manner.

Wound exudate also provides the different cells of the immune system with an ideal medium to destroy invading pathogens such as bacteria, foreign bodies and necrotic tissues, diminishing the rate of infection.

Moist wound healing inhibits the formation of a solid, impenetrable scab, which tends to block the epithelial cells from spreading horizontally through the thin layer of wound exudate and across the wound bed. The wound is then able to close quickly. In addition, pain is significantly reduced when wounds are covered with an occlusive dressing. At first, there were concerns that the presence of moisture in wounds would increase the risk of clinical infection, but that has been shown not to be the case.

Following this protocol provides:

– Up to 50% faster wound healing than dry wound healing
– A lower rate of infection
– No need of systemic antibiotics
– Painless removal of the dressing without damaging newly formed tissue
– Less scarring and better cosmetic results”

So, most definitely, don’t let the air get to your deroofed blister and allow a scab to form. Put an island dressing on it at a minimum. Or even better, a hydrocolloid dressing, like Compeed. This will facilitate and accelerate the healing process.

 

2) Torn Blisters

No, don’t leave this one open either. Leave what remains of the blister roof over the raw blister base (once you’ve cleaned it and got any dirt out) and place an island dressing over it. The remaining skin plus the dressing will create a moist wound environment to facilitate the healing process. Change the dressing when strike-through occurs. Strike-through is when the island first shows signs of becoming saturated. Remember, you don’t want a saturated dressing in contact with your skin for an extended period.

 

3) Intact Blisters

This one doesn’t technically need anything done to it (do put an island dressing on it if it needs a little physical protection from your shoe or your activity). But the assertation that leaving it open to the air will allow the blister fluid to reabsorb quicker or evaporate through the blister roof is nonsense. It will make no difference.

👉 Learn more about how to treat blisters properly

When Should Your Blister Be Exposed To The Air To Dry Out?

If it gets macerated! Macerated means soggy – you know like when you spend too long in the bath or at the pool. Maceration and blisters are two different things, but they can happen together. I’ve written at length about maceration here.

The most common macerated blister situations arise from:

  • Continuing to run or hike in waterlogged shoes and socks
  • Neglecting to change your blister dressing often enough and the surrounding skin becomes white and wrinkly

In these situations, it’s not so much the blister that needs drying out but more the surrounding skin. Don’t leave it open too long. Better to just change your dressings a little more frequently to encourage the skin around your blister to dry out.

👉 Learn more about the different aims of blister treatment according to the integrity of the blister roof – watch the video below.

 

Wrapping Up

If you ever wonder should your blister be exposed to the air, remember this. Leaving your blister open to the air to dry out and scab over is either counterproductive to healing (deroofed and torn blisters) or inconsequential (intact blisters). It is certainly not beneficial to any blister, only maceration.

If, however, you’re wanting to lance your blister, the gear you need is in the Blister Lance Pack.

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Rebecca Rushton BSc(Pod)

About The Author

Rebecca Rushton BSc(Pod)

Podiatrist, blister prone ex-hockey player, foot blister thought-leader, author and educator. Can’t cook. Loves test cricket.

USD $10.99BlisterPod Sterile Blister Lance Pack

Sterile Blister Lance Pack

Got a blister that needs popping? Don't use scissors or a sewing needle & get infected. Do it safely with our Sterile Blister Lance Pack.

VIEW PRODUCT

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14 Comments

  1. Melissa Corder 15 August 2021 at 5:04 am - Reply

    Thank you! This information was helpful!

  2. Danny 5 March 2022 at 5:31 am - Reply

    Thanks—the information I needed! Blessings!!

  3. Pam 1 May 2022 at 3:42 am - Reply

    Skin blister freeze from skin spots on face goes down or has broken and it drys up do I put Vaseline on it

    • Rebecca Rushton BSc(Pod) 1 May 2022 at 5:40 am - Reply

      No comment, Pam. I’m a podiatrist who deals with friction blisters of the feet. Please seek advice from the practitioner who performed your procedure.

  4. Angela 13 June 2022 at 9:18 am - Reply

    Does a deroofed blister ever form a new roof or blister in the same spot as it heals?

    • Rebecca Rushton BSc(Pod) 13 June 2022 at 9:27 am - Reply

      Not as a matter of course. If it does, you’re either not reducing the blister-causing factors enough and the blister is reforming. Or it’s something other than a friction blister (eg: fungal infection, allergy…).

  5. John 4 July 2022 at 1:12 am - Reply

    Thanks so much for the thorough info on blister treatment. I’m an active 50-something guy, who has gone through life generally eschewing bandaging any sort of wound. It’s taken way too long to realize that machismo is unhealthy in so many ways.

    • Rebecca Rushton BSc(Pod) 4 July 2022 at 5:23 am - Reply

      With age comes wisdom, John :)
      Thanks for the feedback.
      ~ Rebecca

  6. Joan Laing 20 August 2022 at 3:17 pm - Reply

    I have a burst blister on the side of my heal that is weeping blood and puss and very painful ! The skin on top is very thick . How can I help healing ? I have antibiotics from Dr. As he said it is infected !

    • Rebecca Rushton BSc(Pod) 4 September 2022 at 10:39 am - Reply

      As per doctors recommendations. If not resolving as expected, seek further medical advice.

  7. London 3 September 2022 at 10:00 pm - Reply

    I have a deep open blister on my heel from my football shoes. How do I treat this so I can keep playing?

  8. Brittney 11 September 2022 at 7:09 pm - Reply

    I have 2 huge unpopped blisters under my toes on each foot. I am currently travelling threw Europe and don’t know how I should treat them. They are impacting my ability to walk and enjoy activities. Please advise how I should proceed if I want to continue to enjoy my trip!

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