Blisters are nobody’s buddy. How long does it take for a blister to heal? The answer to this question depends on what has caused the blister in the first place – but we’ll cover them all in today’s article.
Whether a blister is a side effect of wearing shoes that don’t fit well, being on your feet for very long, getting a little cosy with the sun’s UV rays, or being snacked on by insects, it represents a painful reminder that our bodies are mortal and require some down time and decent equipment with which to tackle the outdoors.
Reaching the midway point of a hike and feeling that nagging bite at your ankles caused by consistent rubbing over the same area of skin can be the most frustrating problem to try and deal with.
Knowing how to heal blister faster can get you back outdoors faster too.
Feeling a Fraction Too Much Friction
It can quite honestly dampen your ability to enjoy the scenery and the exercise. Strong stamps turn into a disjointed stuttering limp and gleeful prances become dragged and miserable.
See also: How To Break in Hiking Boots (helps you prevent blisters!)
While wearing shoes that fit well will go a long way in maintaining the health of your feet, blisters are an aspect that most hikers and outdoorsmen are familiar with.
Even the most seasoned walker has experienced them, and while we can do our best to avoid getting them, they are sometimes there. So let’s see how much should we expect blisters to last!
Average time a blister needs to heal
Most blisters are able to heal up very quickly and disappear without a trace. Other blisters may be a little bit more stubborn and require some assistance to heal.
The healing process can be a lot faster if the blister is small. Larger blisters will naturally take longer.
One of the points that will play a part in how long the blister takes to heal is what caused the blister in the first place. Here are a few different kinds of blisters, their causes, and their expected healing time.
It is important to note that any blisters that appear on the body other than friction blisters need to be examined by a qualified healthcare practitioner to rule out anything serious or contagious. Let’s look at the different types of blisters, and how long they each take to heal up.
Healing time: approximately 1 week
A friction blister is the most common blister to be found on the feet of active people. These blisters are caused by rubbing and continued abrasion to one area on the skin.
A new layer of skin needs to form beneath the damaged skin, and therefore a speedy recovery is dependent on the area where the blister is getting enough air and not being rubbed or chafed further.
Provided there is no continued pressure on the area, the blister should heal within a week and leave no scarring behind.
If a friction blister starts to form and you have to keep walking, like in a hiking situation, there are ways to prevent it worsening.
One of the ways to stop a blister from becoming unmanageable and painful is to apply powder or lubricants to the area to stop the skin from rubbing so much and to allow the materials to slide more easily against the skin without the friction.
The healing time for blood blisters is usually around a week, provided the blister is left to heal and not exposed to further rubbing or abrasion.
Some blisters have air, and some blisters contain blood. There is no significant difference to these, and they should all heal in more or less the same time frame.
A blood blister is merely one in which some of the blood vessels were damaged and have bled beneath the skin.
Their recovery time should be roughly the same as a friction blister, and they should just be left alone unless they become excessively painful.
Healing time: Approximately 8-10 days
Fever blisters are also known as cold sores, and they usually occur around the mouth. They should clear up within 8-10 days. These blisters should also disappear and leave little to no scarring.
It is important not to scratch these blisters, as they may become itchy during the healing process which may cause further trauma to the skin and possibly lead to scarring.
Insect bite blister
Healing time: Several weeks
Several insect bites may cause blisters, such as bees, ants, mosquitoes, wasps and ticks. These blisters can be painful and may take several weeks to heal.
It is important to seek medical attention should there be any concern relating to infection or a reaction that seems disproportionate or severe.
Healing time: Approximately 1 week
Being outdoors often with unprotected skin can lead to sunburn. Blistering as a result of sunburn can take a few days to develop, and may not be obvious at the time of the initial burn.
It is very important to keep this skin cool and protected from further UV ray damage during the healing process. These blisters usually heal within a few days after developing.
While it is helpful to have a guideline as to how long a blister will take before it disappears, this guideline is an approximate guide, and these healing times can vary greatly.
Factors that can influence the healing period are mostly based on the environment and how well the wound is treated and left to recover.
Speeding up the Healing Process of Blisters
The length of time it will take for a blister to heal depends on a few points, such as the severity of the blister, the location of the blister, and whether or not that area is able to air out and be protected against further rubbing.
The body is generally a magnificent organism capable of remarkable self-healing. For more tips on how to properly care for blisters, see our article on this topic.
Having some outside help to boost its progress can also prove to be useful and constructive, especially if you are in a hurry to hit the trails again!
Let’s look at how long it will take to heal a blister, and what can be done to facilitate that healing and speed it along.
Blisters should not be popped to speed up the healing process, although it may feel that this is the correct course of action.
Leaving a blister intact will provide cushioning to the sensitive area, and create a sterile environment for the wound to recover.
Popping a blister may also lead to further scar tissue, and cause the blister to return, but filled with fluid.
This is a response from the body to try and protect the wound, and it will also be more painful the second time around while extending the overall healing time too.
The only reason to pop a blister is to relieve pressure build-up and the possibility of the blister spreading.
Should you need to pop a blister, ensure that the following steps are taken to prevent or minimize the risk of infection:
- Use clean hands and sterile materials.
- Puncture the blister and a low point on the side, using a sterile needle.
- Try to drain out as much fluid as possible without destroying the skin.
- Wipe down the blister, paying special attention to the opening, with a disinfectant.
- Cover the blister with a sterile wound dressing. An occlusive (waterproof) dressing is the best option to ensure that there is no infection, alternatively, a hydrocolloid dressing is great because it is water and air tight, and absorbs fluids.
- Try to leave the blister alone, there is no need to change the dressing, it can stay on for up to a week unless leaking or peeling starts to happen.
A blister can be taped securely to ensure that it is protected. This will also help to minimize the pain and prevent further chafing. If the tape peels up, it may cause further blistering, so for that reason, care must be taken to ensure it is stuck down securely.
A surprising way to facilitate and speed up healing is to apply gentle warmth to a blister. Warmth encourages better blood flow to the affected area, which speeds up the healing process. This can be done in a variety of ways, one of which is to use chemical hand warmers.
Most brands need to be replaced every 12 hours, so they last fairly long. Care should be taken with this technique to ensure that the blister is not agitated or worsened by excessive heat. This will be counterproductive and result in further damage.
Allowing a blister to breathe will facilitate a light drying effect on the skin. This may also feel more comfortable than having a tender wound covered and being rubbed by other items against it.
Creams, Gel and Potions
If there are any punctures in your blister, or if it should accidentally pop, it is very important to apply an antiseptic cream or gel to keep it hygienic. There are many different types to choose from, and the best one would probably be one to will adhere to the skin quite well. Also ensure that:
- The area is clean before applying any antiseptic products.
- Other ideas to speed up the healing of blisters is to apply apple cider vinegar.
- Guaranteed to sting painfully, it will kill any unwanted bacteria visiting the wound.
- Another suggestion is to apply to the wound and drink green tea. If you like to experiment with home remedies or alternative ideas, you may find that the antioxidants in green tea help the body to heal wounds faster.
- Aloe Vera is also a highly recommended way to keep the skin moist without inviting infection. Aloe Vera is a natural anti-inflammatory gel which adheres to skin very well.
- Tea Tree oil is an effective astringent (it assist with drying out the wound) and a potent anti-bacterial ointment. It may also result in some minor burning or discomfort, temporarily.
Prevention is better than cure!
Learning how to avoid getting blisters to begin with would take the first prize. Some of the ways blisters can be prevented include:
- Getting shoes that sit snug on the feet. Do not wear shoes that slide up and down on the heel. But don’t get shoes that are too tight, or else you’ll increase your chances for them.
- Ensure that adequate sun care is observed when visiting the outdoors.
- Always apply a reputable brand of insect repellent.
The most important factor in knowing how long a blister will take to heal is ensuring that the conditions for healing are in place.
Continuing to put trauma onto the wound, not exposing it to fresh, clean air or not observing proper aseptic technique in caring for it will increase the amount of time necessary for it to heal.
When to Seek Medical Attention?
Safety note: If blisters are spreading, hot, or show signs of inflammation such as swelling or pus, it is always necessary to seek help from a doctor.
Infection that enters the body can be difficult to conquer if it is left unchecked, and prolonged infection may require drastic interventions such as antibiotics.
Blisters that have popped and healed with a significant amount of scar tissue left behind can be treated with vitamin E oils to minimize their appearance.
Blisters that are left to heal on their own will not necessarily take longer to mend than those that are treated.
A blister is a way in which the body creates a sterile environment around a wound while it builds a new layer of skin.
It is basically a safety gate to prevent infection from entering the body while there is a vulnerable open space in the skin. If you’re out on the road or heading to camp, make sure you are ready. Read our post on how to choose the best first aid kits to help you.
Most blisters are harmless and the most discomfort they will cause is the stinging or aching sensation around them when they are touched or rubbed against.
What was the worst blister you ever experienced, and how did you get it to heal quickly? Tell us about your wounds and your healing tips in the comment section below!
Daniel is a gear freak when it comes to hiking, climbing and camping. He went to REI Outdoor School to meet new people and learn best practices. Don’t even try to argue with him about the latest backpack or ice axe, he tried most of them. Daniel’s dream is to climb Mount Everest.