Burn blisters are clear liquid bubbles under the skin that form the body’s way of protecting the burned area. Burn blisters are different from blisters that form as a result of repeated rubbing, rash, or squeezing the skin. They usually occur in second-degree burns caused by heat, chemicals, frostbite, or sunburn.
This article provides an overview of burn blisters, along with tips for treating and preventing them.
Burn Blister Treatment
Treatment of burn blisters will vary depending on the severity of the underlying burn. Basic first aid can help mild cases, while moderate or severe burns may require medical attention.
Minor burn blisters can usually be treated at home, but if the burn is severe or infected, you may need medical attention. To avoid infection and further damage to the skin, it’s important not to pick out or pop the burn blisters while they heal.
Blisters from first- and minor second-degree burns can usually be treated with home care.
To help the area heal, you can try the following steps:
- Rinse the area under cold water (not cold water) or apply a cold compress for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Gently wash the area with regular soap and water.
- Apply a petroleum-based ointment or aloe vera.
- Wrap loosely with sterile gauze bandages and change them daily.
- Take over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers for any pain or inflammation.
- Keep the area clean.
Be sure to watch for signs of infection, which may require additional medical attention.
Do not pop or peel
Resist the urge to pop or peel the blisters, as this can lead to infection. If the blister bursts on its own, gently clean the area and cover with a dry bandage.
Moderate burns and burn blisters require medical attention. Healthcare providers can treat by:
- Safely drain fluid from swollen and painful burn blisters in a sterile manner, if necessary
- Prescribe medication to treat any inflammation or infection
- Provide IV (intravenous) fluids to maintain blood pressure, prevent shock, and combat dehydration
- In severe cases, a skin graft is performed by removing the burned skin and transplanting healthy skin into the affected area
when to see a doctor
You should see a healthcare provider right away for severe second-degree burns and all third-degree burns with burn blisters. Go directly to the emergency room if you notice the following symptoms:
- Burn blisters in areas larger than 2 inches
- Burn blisters on the face, hands, feet, or genitals
- Multiple blisters on dark red and shiny burns
- increased pain or swelling
- shortness of breath
- swollen lymph nodes
You should also seek immediate medical attention if the burn blisters show signs of infection, such as:
- White or yellow drainage or milky pus from blisters
- heat, pain, or swelling around the blisters
- Red streaks around the blisters
If the burn blisters develop a severe second- or third-degree burn and become infected, you need immediate medical attention. You should also go to the hospital if you have any doubts about the severity, or if the area shows no signs of healing after a few days.
what not to do
If you notice that your skin is blisters after a burn, follow these guidelines:
- Do not pop the blisters, as this can lead to infection.
- Do not put ice cubes or icy water directly on the area, as it can lower body temperature and cause further pain and damage to skin tissue.
- Do not apply household or fragrance products such as butter, oil, eggs, lotions, sprays or creams to the blisters.
- If the blisters are itchy, don’t scratch, as this can cause the blisters to burst and make them more susceptible to infection.
- Don’t use a bandage that puts extra pressure on the blisters.
- Do not touch the blisters without washing your hands, and keep the area clean and bandaged to avoid infection.
As tempting as it may be, don’t pick, pop, or scratch on your burn blisters. It’s important to keep the area clean and the blisters intact so the skin beneath it can heal without infection.
Burns and burn blisters are not always preventable, but experts recommend the following safety measures to reduce your risk:
- Be careful in the kitchen, especially when handling hot items or working around a fire, and never leave food on the stove unattended.
- Lower the water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent scalding, and always test the water with your elbow (immerse your elbow in water) before bathing or using it, especially for babies and children.
- Lock hot appliances, matches and lighters in a safe location away from children or vulnerable household members.
- Wear weather-appropriate clothing to avoid frostbite, and if your skin does get frostbite, use warm water to slowly raise your body temperature.
- If you plan to be in the sun for extended periods of time or in hot weather, use a broad-spectrum sunscreen and seek shade often.
Be careful at home
Most burns and burn blisters occur at home or during daily activities. In kitchens, bathrooms, and in extremely hot or cold temperatures, you can help prevent them from happening by being careful.
General Burn Treatment
Different types of burns require different treatments.
Minor cases, such as first-degree burns, can usually be treated at home. This includes the following remedies:
- cool the burn with a cool damp compress
- Gently clean the area with water and soap
- Apply petroleum jelly or aloe 2 to 3 times a day
- Cover the burn with a sterile, dry, non-stick bandage and change it daily
- Relieve any pain or inflammation by taking over-the-counter medicines like Advil or Motrin (ibuprofen)
- pay close attention to the area to make sure it is healing properly without any signs of infection
Moderate-to-severe cases, such as severe second- or third-degree burns, will require emergency medical care, and a healthcare provider may treat the burn with prescription drugs, intravenous fluids, and possibly a skin graft. In the meantime, while waiting for medical attention, you should:
- If possible, elevate the burn area above the level of the heart.
- Apply a damp, clean, cool (not cold) cloth to the burn area.
- Lie on your back, lift your feet, and keep the rest of your body warm to prevent electrocution.
- Make sure no clothing is stuck to the burn.
Infant or elderly burns
First-degree or very minor second-degree burns usually heal on their own with home care. But if the first-degree burn is large, or occurs on an infant or the elderly, emergency medical care is best.
Burn blisters are fluid-filled air bubbles that form over the burned area of the skin as a protective layer. Never pop them as this may increase the chance of infection. Minor burn blisters can be safely treated at home with basic first aid care, but burn blisters that occur with moderate or severe burns require immediate medical attention.
Burns and possible burn blisters are a very common household injury, but this does not make them less painful or severe. Burn blisters that burst suddenly, whether intentionally or unintentionally, are at risk of infection. If your blister doesn’t show signs of improvement within a few days, or if it appears to be infected, you should see a healthcare provider right away to make sure it’s being treated appropriately.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long will the blisters last?
It depends on the severity of the underlying burn, whether it has been properly treated, and whether an infection has developed. If you notice burn blisters that don’t seem to heal after a week or so, seek medical attention right away, as this may indicate an infection.
Should you pop burn blisters?
You should never try to pop a burn blister. Burn blisters are the body’s way of protecting the subcutaneous skin as it heals, so popping the blisters can lead to infection and slow the healing process. If the blister bursts on its own, do not peel the skin and keep the area clean and covered.
What is the difference between different degrees of burns?
Burns are classified into three grades. First-degree burns affect the outer layers of the skin and don’t always blister. Second-degree burns affect the outer and underlying layers of the skin, usually with immediate blisters. Third-degree burns affect the deepest layers of the skin, which may or may not include blisters.