Common outdoor injuries # 2 – blisters.
Blisters can be caused in many ways:
The most common blister is caused by friction, especially in a warm damp environment – think socks and hiking boots. That is why we always suggest that you walk boots in to get them comfortable before hitting a trail. When you do this wear two pairs of thinner socks and wet them and wring them out so that they are only damp. This helps wet the boot which allows it to adapt to the shape of your foot.
When you pinch skin perhaps in a door or with pliers or even a hammer skin ruptures causing a blood blister.
Certain medical conditions can also cause blisters to form, here we look at Impetigo and the dreaded itching of Chicken-Pox as well as the blisters formed from a burn.
We will focus on those blisters that can occur outdoors. Burn blisters will be also be covered. So the main causes will be; friction blisters, blood blisters and heat blisters.
The most common type of blister is a friction blister. In their most basic form, they occur due to increased shear stress between the surface of the skin and the rest of the body.
A blister forms when the skin has been damaged by friction or rubbing, heat, or chemical exposure. Fluid collects between the upper layers of the skin known as the epidermis, and the layers below (the dermis). This fluid cushions the tissue underneath, protecting it from further damage and allows it to heal.
Painful blisters on the palm of the hands or soles of the feet are often caused by tissue shearing in deeper layers of the skin. These layers lie next to nerve endings, thereby producing more pain. Most blisters will heal without medical intervention. As the new skin grows beneath the blister, the fluid will slowly disappear and the skin will naturally dry and peel off. Popping blisters with a pin is not recommended, because the bubble is a protective layer that fends off infection. Once the blister is popped the wound is open to bacterial infection
You can cover a blister with a plaster or gauze dressing to protect it while it heals, especially if you need to continue hiking or any other activity; If the blister bursts, resist the urge to peel off any dead skin on the top. Allow the fluid to drain away naturally and carefully wash it with a mild disinfectant solution. Cover the blister and the surrounding area with a sterile, dry dressing and even some wound powder. Hydrocolloid dressings can help prevent further discomfort and encourage the healing process. Allow blood blisters to heal in their own time. They can be more painful than standard blisters and an ice pack can offer some relief. Ensuring that the ice pack does not come into contact with the skin directly by covering it a t-shirt or face cloth. Small burns around the campsite will also cause blistering, cool the burn with ice or water and once you are sure the burn is clean apply a burn dressing, you should have a variety of sizes in your first aid kit, assess the burn as well, if it is severe or extensive medical attention should be sought. To avoid blisters on the feet; wear comfortable shoes and clean socks. Badly fitting or hard shoes carry a higher risk of blistering. Moist skin blisters more easily, so regular sock changes can be helpful. Sweat-wicking socks made of natural fabrics are also advised. If you stop for a rest, take your boots and socks off and allow them to air, let your feet dry and check for potential trouble spots, a plaster may help alleviate a potential problem. When using tools or playing a sport such as cricket or even canoeing wearing gloves will prevent blisters and taping of the hands is a good preventative measure. Blisters are irritating and in cases painful- following some of the measures we have espoused may assist in the prevention thereof.