Causes of Blisters. We all know ‘em. We all hate ‘em.

Or do we?

Let’s take a closer look at the causes of blisters and what they do for our bodies.

Caused by the repetitive rubbing of skin against another material – shoe, clothing, skin, etc. – blisters form from a combination of that friction and the heat that ensues. Athletes in particular are susceptible to foot blisters, as moisture (i.e., sweat) increases the likelihood of friction so the sock or bare skin “sticks” more readily to the material it’s rubbing against. Then, after so much continuous friction, we end up with a breakdown in the layers of skin, wherein the skin separates and fluid, called serum, fills that newly created space.

But blisters on the skin don’t only form because of rubbing against material or other skin. We’ve all burned ourselves by touching a hot pan or even laying out in the blazing hot sun. It’s not too long after that inevitable blister or blisters start to form. Blood blisters are usually caused by a pinch of the skin and fill with blood rather than serum. A clear, more watery fluid than the typical serum (pus) or blood is what fills – and thus names – water blisters. One gets fever blisters, or cold sores, from the herpes simplex virus. They form in or around the mouth – usually resulting from too much stress, sun or a fever. And even sweet little babies can get nasty blisters on their skin from diaper rashes every once in awhile.

Allergic or chemical reactions can form blisters on the skin as well. Have you ever brushed against a poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac plant in the woods, then found yourself itchy and, yes, blistery later that day? That, my friend, is an allergic reaction to the oily resin exuding from the plant. Don’t worry, the fluid inside those blisters come from within your body – not the plant. So you will not spread the itch if the blisters break and that fluid comes into contact with your healthy skin. But the oily resin can continue to reintroduce itself to your healthy skin, if you haven’t washed the oils from your hands or body, or you keep petting your dog, who went on that walk into the woods with you. So do be careful to fully wash your hands, pets, and any surfaces you’ve touched which you feel may have indirectly come into contact with the plant in question.

No matter what the causes of blisters, though, they are really all the same – a pocket of broken down, irritated skin filled with fluid. And in all cases, it’s important to keep that blister in tact for as long as possible! The fluid inside the blister is working hard to heal the injury and grow the new skin needed in the area. Pop the blister too early, lose that healing liquid, and you’ll find you’ll be waiting quite awhile longer for healthy new skin to cover the wound.

So, when you think about it, blisters are really amazing, self-healing formations on the skin. They are your body’s protectors, doing what they can to care for and heal your skin after a traumatic irritation. Rather than just skin rubbing raw from continuous friction or too much heat, the irritated area forms this nice pillow of healing fluid to encase the wound until – ideally – the time is right for the new skin to start surviving on its own.

So, don’t hate the blister! Embrace the blister! Repeat after me – blisters are our friends. The next time you find yourself with an ugly foot blister, itchy poison oak blisters on the skin, or a painful fever blister, remember… keep the blister in tact and all will – eventually – be happy and healthy again in no time at all.