Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Blisters

3-minute read

Blisters form in response to friction or pressure on the skin. Many require simple self-care, or even no treatment at all. Some blisters are more serious or may be a symptom of disease and, in this case, they should be treated by your doctor.

What is a blister?

A blister is a small bubble of fluid, often clear, under the top layer of skin. It forms when friction repeatedly stretches the skin, creating a tear between skin layers, which fills with fluid. A hard knock that damages blood vessels can cause a blood blister, which is simply a blister filled with blood.

The pressure of fluid in the blister can be painful.

Depending on their cause, blisters can occur on the feet, hands, lips, mouth, torso or genital areas.

Causes of blisters

Blisters are commonly caused by friction or pressure, such as when new shoes repeatedly rub your heel.

Blisters can also be caused by injuries or damage from:

Some diseases and infections can also cause blisters, including:

When to seek medical help

You should seek medical help if:

  • you think your blister might be caused by a disease or infection — for example, if several blisters form without an obvious cause
  • you have a blister on your mouth, eye or genitals
  • you have blisters after a serious burn or sunburn
  • your blister looks infected (it is full of pus, is inflamed and is painful)
  • you have diabetes or circulation problems

Treatment of blisters

Serious blisters, and those caused by disease or infection, should only be treated under the direction of your doctor. You might need antibiotics or other medication to treat the underlying condition.

Minor blisters that are still intact will dry up in a week or two. If possible, leave it alone to heal. The covering skin protects the blister from infection.

If you think the blister might burst, cover it with a loose bandage.

Cut a padded dressing into a doughnut shape (with a hole in the middle) and place it around the blister. Then, cover the blister and padding with a bandage.

If a blister has burst, wash and clean it. Leave the roof of the blister on and cover it with a plaster or bandage. A blister that has lost its roof completely can be covered with a special blister plaster. A pharmacist can advise you about this.

Don’t use home remedies such as green tea or vinegar because they are not effective.

You might decide to puncture a blister to drain the fluid if it is large and painful, but take care to avoid infection. To drain a blister: 

  • thoroughly wash your hands and the blister
  • sterilise a clean needle with rubbing alcohol
  • pierce the edge of the blister and let the fluid drain out
  • wash the blister again
  • apply an ointment, such as petroleum jelly
  • cover with a bandage

How to prevent blisters

To prevent friction blisters, you can:

  • wear shoes that don’t rub
  • wear moisture-wicking socks
  • wear gloves when digging or gardening
  • cover friction ‘hotspots’ with hypoallergenic adhesive tape (again, your pharmacist can advise you) or use anti-friction skin balm

For more information

Last reviewed: May 2018

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Blisters & blister treatment: children | Raising Children Network

Blisters look like bubbles on the skin. This practical guide explains how to recognise blisters and apply blister treatment for children.

Read more on Raising Children Network website

Blisters - myDr.com.au

A blister is a lump filled with fluid that appears when the skin's outer layer is injured. Find out the common causes and what to do when you have a blister.

Read more on myDr website

Blisters - Better Health Channel

A blister is one of the body's responses to injury or friction.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Kids' Health - Topics - Blisters

Blisters look like bubbles under the surface of the skin with watery stuff underneath. You can get blisters when your skin is burned by heat or by friction (rubbing against something).

Read more on Women's and Children's Health Network website

Pemphigus foliaceus - ACD

Pemphigus foliaceus is a rare autoimmune blistering disease which is characterised by superficial blisters, erosions and crusts on the skin.

Read more on Australasian College of Dermatologists website

Kids' Health - Topics - Calluses and corns

Sometimes fluid comes up under the skin. This is called a blister. (Our topic Blisters will tell you more about these).

Read more on Women's and Children's Health Network website

Pemphigus vulgaris - ACD

Pemphigus vulgaris is a rare autoimmune blistering disease which is characterised by blisters, erosions and crusts in the mouth and on the skin.

Read more on Australasian College of Dermatologists website

Bullous pemphigoid - ACD

Bullous pemphigoid is a subepidermal autoimmune blistering disease. It is the commonest type of autoimmune blistering disease, with an incidence of 12.1 to 66 new cases per million per year.

Read more on Australasian College of Dermatologists website

Epidermolysis bullosa acquisita - ACD

Epidermolysis bullosa acquisita (EBA) is a rare blistering disease which produces deep, tense blisters on the skin and mucosal surfaces (mouth, genitals, nose and eyes) which typically heal with scarring.

Read more on Australasian College of Dermatologists website

Pemphigoid gestationis (PG) - ACD

Pemphigoid gestationis (PG) is a relatively rare pregnancy dermatosis characterised by blisters

Read more on Australasian College of Dermatologists website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo
Feedback