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What Causes Water Blisters?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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The most frequent cause of water blisters is repeated friction. Water blisters most commonly occur on the heel or the foot when someone is breaking in new shoes. When the blisters burst, they can be painful, and those with diabetes need to be particularly careful to bandage blisters to prevent infections. Friction is, however, not the only cause of these blisters. Several other conditions can cause them to form.

Burns are probably the second most frequent cause of water blisters. Second and third degree burns may quickly blister. Since burns of this type can cause damage to the skin, they usually require treatment with topical antibiotics to prevent infection. Large burns necessitate a trip to the doctor to help eliminate pain and to reduce risk of infection.

Some viruses can cause blisters. Chicken pox and shingles, for example, begin with the formation of small blisters that burst after a day or so, and then begin to crust over and scab. Scabs should be watched for any signs of pus as these may indicate infection.

Allergies to substances resulting in contact dermatitis may also cause blisters. Some people have significant allergies to detergents or cleaning chemicals that can at first show up as blisters. Blisters and/or rash may be present and should be evaluated by a doctor to rule out a viral cause. Poison oak and ivy can also cause blistering before a rash develops.

Prickly heat, resulting from exposure to high heat in humid areas may also create water blisters. Blisters usually tend to resolve overnight, leaving behind a raised and irritated rash. As well, direct exposure to the sun, and extremely bad sunburns may blister the skin like contact burns. If the skin forms blisters with minimal sun exposure, this may indicate heightened skin sensitivity to the sun.

Some sexually transmitted diseases like genital warts and herpes may also form blisters prior to forming itching rashes. Blisters on the genitals should always be evaluated, since the most likely cause is herpes, which can be quite contagious. Those with herpes need to discuss reduction of risk with any potential sexual partners.

How Do You Pop a Water Blister?

Despite all the causes for these stubborn water blisters, the draining tends to be the same. It’s best to leave blisters alone and not pop them. The leftover skin can offer protection to the area and allow it to heal on its own.

If the blister is just too painful, or you accidentally pop it, there are safe ways to pop the blister and keep the area safe from infection. It’s crucial to keep the area clean with rubbing alcohol or an anti-bacterial wipe, and washing your hands or gloves will do when you go to open the blister.

The best approach is to use a sterilized needle to press the bubbled skin and let the liquid slowly drain from the area. Have a cotton ball, gauze, or other material to catch the excess liquid that drains from the area. 

Popping the blister is easy, but the potential mess it can create is a concern if not taken care of properly. Stay clean, and don’t pop it unless you have to.

How Do You Heal a Water Blister?

Whether you’ve left your blister alone to heal itself or you have popped it, it’s crucial to leave the skin intact, even if it's tempting you to peel it off. The skin, dead or alive, protects the wound beneath it from infection. 

When a blister becomes infected, that’s when you should seek medical attention. It’s best to avoid that altogether though. 

The healing process is simple as long as you tend to the blister. Ointments, keeping it clean, and gauze or bandaids add a layer of protection that will go a long way in the healing process.

What Are the Ways to Prevent a Water Blister?

Water blisters can form from a couple of different things, but heat and friction are the top contenders. Yet there are simple and easy ways to prevent all water blisters, and most of it comes down to just being more careful. 

Heat Water Blisters

For example, heat blisters come as a surprise when you accidentally pick up a hot pan bare-handed, or you spent an extra hour in the sun when you weren't supposed to and you have a few blisters on your skin as a result. 

These blisters can be prevented with some extra attention and care yourself. Applying sunscreen, putting on potholders before lifting a hot tray, anything they can simply keep your hands and skin blisters free. 

Friction Water Blisters

Friction water blisters are a different story because they are not as easily avoidable. In scenarios where you’re aware they could pose a threat, like breaking into new sports cleats or going on several mile-long hikes, you can take precautions. 

With new shoes that could rub against your heel, side of your feet, and toes, it’s best to slowly break them in as opposed to hopping into a couple of hours of activity. The same goes for long hikes, if you know it will be a long time of walking, wear shoes that you’ve already broken in and won’t harm your feet. 

Accidents happen, and blisters come and go. Despite their small size, they can be a real pain. It’s better to stay ahead of them and keep your body blister-free because the last thing you want is an infected one. 

How Can You Tell if Your Water Blister is Infected?

Blisters usually aren’t a problem and will resolve on their own. With that being said, if a blister becomes infected, you may need to seek medical attention. You will be able to tell if you’re water blister is infected by sight, feeling, and smell. 

It will become increasingly evident as you take in the symptoms, composed of heat in the blister area, possible pus draining from the area, or red irritated skin. A smell typically accompanies the pain and swelling of an infected blister. 

If your blister is infected, you should seek medical attention for your next steps. The last thing you want is for it to become worse.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By mrvys — On Feb 07, 2014

I have a problem. which is having blisters on my face. The doctors said they don't know what it is. Please help me. Is there such a disease?

By anon925403 — On Jan 11, 2014

I have water blisters on the heel of my right foot that are itchy. They have spread to my legs and arms.

By anon345969 — On Aug 24, 2013

I get six or seven water boils at a time on my chest.

By anon287950 — On Aug 27, 2012

Water blisters around your eye back and or extremities can be shingles. You can get shingles of the face, eye, back, neck, arms or legs. If you have blisters in these areas that are painful, please get them checked by a physician!

By anon183828 — On Jun 06, 2011

I woke up one day with two small water blisters on my chest right above my nipple to the side! It looks like I got burned! What can it be?

By anon176458 — On May 15, 2011

My wife had two huge blisters on her left paralyzed leg recently. (Stroke victim) The vascular surgeon she saw on Wed. said it was because of poor circulation in her leg. It has been swollen and painful since her stroke two years ago. Why didn't they do something then? I'm not mad. Just disappointed in the system. After they broke, they didn't suggest any treatment or anything. Her leg drips all the way down to her heel now. What do I do?

By anon173850 — On May 08, 2011

I've lived all over Europe and US and started getting these water blisters on my fingers as soon as I moved to Bolingbrook, IL. After lots of testing we found what was causing it, the water! No joke, if I put water from my house on my hands I get blisters within 12 hours. If I wear rubber gloves when washing and use alcohol based hand wash instead of touching the water, I'm fine. Condition seems to get worse with more exposure.

It only takes a little of the water from the house to trigger a really bad reaction. Still don't know what is different in the water here from everywhere else in Illinois / US that I've lived.

By anon167952 — On Apr 14, 2011

tiny blisters on your hands is probably eczema. i had it as a little girl, and didn't have a breakout for years. All of a sudden it came about. I go through different stages. Sometimes I have the tiny fluid filled bumps, (by the way it's best not to pop these) which itch like crazy!

If you use mild soaps (dove for sensitive skin) and unscented lotions, Eucerin works well for me, always use cold water to wash your hands since warmth irritates even more. Another stage is deep cracking on my hand and it is very painful. For this, I use neosporin with a band aid and let it heal.

My doctor has prescribed a steroid cream in which I feel doesn't help. I did some research that the food choices you make have a big impact on your outbreaks as well as seasons, and even stress. Hope this helps!

By anon165474 — On Apr 05, 2011

I have had this condition of water blisters breaking out on both of my hands over the last 25 years and they itch like hell and can be very painful.

I have used all of these creams: Dermovate, Betnovate, Garamycin (newest one now) and Aureomicin (Chlortetracycine)prior to that one. I find the latest one I am using really helps with the iching and it does help heal the scabbed wound when the blister breaks open.

However, if you are unsure what is causing the problem, seek advice from a doctor before using any treatments, as they may not be suited to you and may not be what your condition needs to heal.

By anon156786 — On Feb 28, 2011

@anon 23826: that is probably eczema. i have it when the seasons change and when I have been writing a lot, it can be caused by sweaty palms, and i found that i got it when i had been washing up, using gloves as my hands could not breathe properly. i would suggest using an easy hand cream like nivea and hydrocortisone.

By remyakr — On Feb 08, 2011

Some water blisters on my hand were broken. Now it makes scars on my thumb, middle and ring fingers. Is it cured? Sometimes the scars become wet. Is this because of any food I ate? These blisters are on my left hand. As I'm not a left handed person, is it because of foods? Please help me.

By anon150183 — On Feb 07, 2011

I have had water blisters (tiny blisters with water content) on my hand fingers and left leg thumb for five years. I'm 21 years old and I took ayurvedic and allopathic treatments and now in homeopathic treatment.

There will be no blisters up to nine months to one year after i take medicines. I think the cause is not any particular food items or soaps I use. Doctors said it's because of lot of tension, but I'm not a tense person. I had it six years before when I was in 10th standard, because of use of detergent and dust. But now I'm allergic to dust, detergent, glycerin and even an antiseptic lotion like Dettol. Please help me.

By anon137796 — On Dec 29, 2010

I was in the hospital last summer, woke up the next morning with one blister on the inside of each thigh.


By anon128208 — On Nov 18, 2010

i have a water blister on my lip an it itches a lot. how can i get rid of it?

By anon128109 — On Nov 18, 2010

Small little water blisters on your fingers and then dry skin could be dehydrosis eczema. I had it really bad over the summer and finally am using a steroid cream from my doctor to help treat it. It will never go away completely but helps with the itching and appearance.

By anon124521 — On Nov 06, 2010

I once had blisters on my hands, a 180 to be precise and they came and went over a period of several months. It was extremely itchy and later on I developed itchiness over my whole body. Warm baths were the only relief for the itch. The problem was eczema which I got from working with cleaning chemicals.

By anon123424 — On Nov 01, 2010

I have a lot of small water balls on both of the palms of my hands and they won't go away. I popped some of them and put hot water on it and it comes back. Could this be a water blister?

By anon122128 — On Oct 26, 2010

A ring of blisters developed around the area where I applied iodine to a cut. I think it is caused by iodine burn. The affected area is sore to the touch. What is the best way to dry up these blisters? They cause me more pain than the cut.

By anon110921 — On Sep 14, 2010

what causes water blisters? i have a bunch of little ones on my left pinky. they itch like crazy. I've never had them before until i moved to maryland. i can't think of anything that I'm allergic to causing it because I'm not in contact with anything that I'm allergic to. i only get them on my left pinky -- nowhere else on my body. any ideas? would also be very helpful to know how to get rid of them. Ty

By anon103027 — On Aug 10, 2010

i have a water blister on the back of my knee the size of a golf ball. i popped it and it won't stop running.

By anon100794 — On Jul 31, 2010

I got a water blister on the interior of my knee. I sleep with my knees together. I received heat pack treatments for pain in the same knee. The treatment didn't cause a burn. Could the heat pack draw water to cause a water blister. I had seven treatments over a 10 day period with not problems. But on the eighth, a blister appeared right after the treatment. How is this possible?

By anon99279 — On Jul 25, 2010

I get very tiny water blisters on my fingers if I wear a ring that is not the right kind of metal because I am allergic to certain kinds (not sure of all of them, but copper is one of them). I have to wear rings that are at least 14kt gold or sterling silver.

I have the same problem with my earrings, which have to be at least 18kt gold, sterling silver or surgical steel, but I don't get blisters from earrings, or bracelets or anything else, only rings. For everything else my skin just turns red and itches really badly where the metal contacts my skin (even a metal belt buckle that touches my stomach), and my ears will leak fluid out of the piercing hole once the earrings are taken out as well.

By anon97321 — On Jul 19, 2010

i just had a water blister on my leg. It burns like crazy!

By anon95248 — On Jul 12, 2010

I had water blisters on my feet when I was a little girl and spent a lot of time in the sun and heat. I am now 48 and three months ago developed them on both hands.

I have tried two different creams from the doctor and no help, but I have picked at them and let all the water out and am diabetic. I was told they could be from diabetes and stress (I have a lot of stress). Never had any on my feet for over 40 years but do stay out of the sun. I hate the heat.

The doctor also said my body may not be able to cool itself right so that can cause the water blisters!

By anon89088 — On Jun 08, 2010

Don't be afraid if you have water warts. If you get burned bad the water from your body will go to your skin to moisten and save the skin so it's not necessarily a bad thing -- it's normal.

i got sunburned really bad and i have thousands of small water warts all over my body, mainly on my back and shoulders and i have a few big ones yet I'm OK.

By anon86073 — On May 23, 2010

Someone earlier mentioned they were 100 percent positive they don't have genital herpes because they are a virgin. Unfortunately HSV1 and HSV2 can both be transmitted via sexual contact or via oral contact. Think for a few minutes and you can see how HSV2, traditionally genital herpes, can make its way to the oral cavity and be transmitted from a kiss. 'Fever blisters" are herpes too.

By anon78563 — On Apr 19, 2010

Okay, so I woke up this morning with two blisters on my lower back. One is a little bigger than a quarter and filled up with water, the other one is about the size of a nickel. I went to bed last night, blister free. After reading these comments, the only thing that I can think happened is the bedbugs in my sheets and mattress. But does that cause large blisters?

By anon76811 — On Apr 12, 2010

occasionally when stressed I get a water blister on my arm. it disappears after about an hour. This is weird and has happened three times this year. Cause?

By anon76522 — On Apr 10, 2010

I get water blisters all over my body and it's because i have lupus and my skin shows it with the water blisters.

By anon76085 — On Apr 08, 2010

I have had really small water blisters on the inside of my palms, and then dry skin? it's weird. it's been there for over a year. they're almost so small you can't see them, but i can feel them.

By anon75851 — On Apr 08, 2010

i get them all the time on my fingers because i am a musician and i tend to get them playing an upright bass since the strings are thicker and harder to play. it's from applying pressure to the weak muscle that it is not used to.

i know this is the cause because it only occurs on the fingers i pluck the strings with. it's not a herpes related thing. and you don't need to go to the hospital.

just like any other blisters (like red blisters caused by friction irritation) they will heal and go away. best not to pop them because it will leave a mark. if it is really causing pain try running under cool water for a while.

By anon73663 — On Mar 28, 2010

what would cause blisters on the feet of a diabetic? any idea?

By anon57378 — On Dec 22, 2009

My granddaughter has had blisters on one thigh and on the back of her hand. What could cause this? She is 23.

By anon55018 — On Dec 03, 2009

i just got a water blister on my face after a facial. they used high frequency for my acne, and I don't know if that is what caused it, but it's there.

By anon54841 — On Dec 02, 2009

i have a water blister on my thumb. it was caused because i was making noodles and the hot water spilled on my finger. it burned really bad and like a week later i got a water blister.

you can also get them from playing on the monkey bars. i used to get them all the time and we would pop them with a needle. it's no big deal! you will live.

By anon46045 — On Sep 22, 2009

I am prone to fever blisters on my top lip during my menstrual cycle and in times of extreme heat or stress. However, I have a water blister on my bottom lip this cycle. I've never had a water blister before. I would like to believe that it is a result of being on my cycle and a combination of it being extremely warm in my apartment. How do I treat this blister? It doesn't itch. Should I put neosporin on it or should I put alcohol on it to dry it up?

By anon44294 — On Sep 06, 2009

I got one this morning from trying to zip up my dress. it was really hard to zip and i couldn't zip it up. my fingers started to hurt. :(

By anon44032 — On Sep 03, 2009

My son apparently got hit in the hand by a bat at the playground and has formed a large water blister on his hand. Is this possible? I'm not sure if our nanny is telling the truth.

By anon42815 — On Aug 24, 2009

I have 3 water blisters -- one on my hand and two or three on my leg. Can someone please tell me the cause. I think they may have risen when i had contact with the grass while playing badminton.

By anon38323 — On Jul 25, 2009

check your sheets and matresses because bedbugs cause those blisters too.

By anon37637 — On Jul 21, 2009

I have 3 blisters which just popped up on the inside of my arm between my wrist & my elbow. It is red around the blisters. This does not itch. Can you tell me what this might be?

By anon35939 — On Jul 08, 2009

Anon17220 I have almost the exact same problem as you! I get these small water filled blisters on my middle fingers-only the 2 middle ones-and they itch like crazy. My doctor said it was an allergy and gave me a steroid cream. It dried up the blisters and make my skin red and peely. But, at least the itching stopped. Before the dry skin even cleared up more blisters appeared. The cream dries them up but they just keep popping up. So, like you I am still looking for answers. And I am almost 100% positive it is not from genital herpes because I am a virgin!

By anon35556 — On Jul 06, 2009

i have a few water blisters around my feet and my elbow i don't have a clue how i got them i have tried popping them but the keep refilling is there any quick way to get rid of them as i can't wear shoes ?

By anon34302 — On Jun 20, 2009

My cat scratched my leg, and it leaked water. Now I have 2 bubbles that fill up with water on my leg and they squeeze out the water, but they keep filling up. Any advice or ideas why I am leaking water?

By abby114 — On Jun 16, 2009

i went to sleep last night and woke up today with 2 water blisters on the inside of my elbow.. i can't figure out what caused them.. i've been looking for answers all day and i can't find anything.. any ideas?

By kp1981 — On Jun 08, 2009

Ugh! I have water blister's also. I have it on my left and right hand. My left hand it's between my pinky and ring finger and on my ring finger knuckle. My right hand I have it on my ring finger and it's spreading to my pinky also. I woke up this morning and now I have it (what looks like it) on my mouth and my arms and back!

I tried using hydrocortisone creame and baby aveeno lotion but it doesn't seem to be helping. The hydrocortisone creame seems to keep the itchy away for a little bit but it seems like using that or the aveeno is making it worst!

This is so irritating!

By anbar — On Jan 05, 2009

anon23826: the rash on your hands sounds just like when i have a flare up of eczema. keep your skin well hydrated, and try some hydrocortisone cream.

By anon23826 — On Jan 03, 2009

i've had water blisters on my hands for about a year now, i've had them come up before over the course of about 5 years but they would go away with a few weeks, more recently tho they have come up and stayed. i've been to the doctor twice about them and i was given betnovate ointment, the first time it worked, and it seemed to work this time but then it flared up again even tho i kept on using the ointment. It's always been worse on my right hand, but i get it at the tips of my fingers on my left as well, after i get the blisters they dry up and my skin peals, gets red, itchy and painful, then more blisters appear! i don't know what courses it so i can prevent it happening and nothing i've tried works. All i want is for my hands to look normal again, and i'm really afraid that i do find a way to get rid of the blisters my hands will be scared!

Can anyone help?

By anon17684 — On Sep 04, 2008

I have a huge water blister on my side. How does this happen? It would not bother me however its in perfect uniform w/a scar from a mole removal I had about 3 years ago. It is about as long as a nickel and as wide as a dime. I had a doc tell me it was a water blister and popped it, however, it still worries me because he had no real clue how this might have happened. My side of all places. I work at a office desk, lazy at home and hardly any sun! Any info?

By anon17589 — On Sep 02, 2008

Persistent and repeated water blisters on the fingers, especially the index finger, with no obvious source of trauma such as a burn, is likely a herpes simplex infection known as herpetic whitlow. While herpetic whitlow can be a stand alone infection, most likely it is the result of autoinoculation from a primary genital herpes infection.

By anon17220 — On Aug 25, 2008

i have a history of getting small water blisters around the tips of my fingers. this usually happens as a result of food allergies. for me it's pork. it doesn't happen every time i eat pork but sometimes depending on how it's prepared or how old the meat is (sometimes the pork may not be as fresh)

try to monitor when you get the blisters and see if there is a recurring pattern. if you pick on the blisters (which i have a habit of doing), you will see the water seep out and little holes on your finger. i've learned that if you leave them alone, they will dry up and heal

By gk1988 — On Jul 30, 2008

i have mainly on my index fingers, small blister type things containing clear fluid, they tend to flare every few months for a day or 2 but i have had them continuously for a week and a half now,

does anyone have any idea what this is? and how i can cure it? thanks.

By anon7757 — On Feb 01, 2008

Someone I know has a water blister on the back of their shin and it is the size of a quarter. He popped it and it shrunk a bit, but it looks like it's going to leave a deep scar. I am worried because he had gotten one (smaller) on his right foot, not near the shoe... A little information on this would be helpful

By anon5387 — On Nov 23, 2007

All these comments are nuts... Go to the hospital immediately... Have some common sense! The things that are described here are insanely heinous and very troubling. If i came into contact with any of these symptoms i would probably call 911! So please seek medical attention from a professional. Thank you and god bless...

By anon5248 — On Nov 18, 2007

can you drink the water in a water blister? could you survive in the desert by drinking the water? thanks

By anon5193 — On Nov 16, 2007

I have water blisters all over my hand around the bottom of my fingers and they peel and hurt. They are red and new ones develop all the time

By anon2171 — On Jul 01, 2007

I have to puffed up spots about an inch under each eye looks like blisters Only sore to the touch I don't know what these are

By anon1970 — On Jun 22, 2007

what would cause pinpoint water blisters on a persons fingers?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia...
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