Blisters Be Gone!

Jul 03, 2024

By Anne Sullivan

Summertime is fun, but it can come with an “ouch” or two. You might get a little sunburn in that place you missed with sunscreen, or get a bug bite or a jellyfish sting. 

Summertime has its harp “ouches” too. I’m thinking about when you come home from that beach vacation and get back to your harp practice. Your fingers will almost certainly be sore for the first day or two. You might even end up with blisters. If you do, you’re going to want to know my tried and true treatment for water blisters. 

If you have had water blisters in the past, you know that when the old skin on top of the blister peels away, the new skin underneath is very tender. It makes playing at anything louder than a pianissimo painful.

When I was just starting, my teacher recommended this blister remedy, and it has worked well for me and many of my students. For a water blister (not a blood blister), pop it with a sterilized sewing needle in two places so it can drain. Don’t stick your flesh with the needle. You just want to pop the blister itself. Don't cut away the skin that was on top of the blister; you want to give the skin underneath a chance to dry out before you remove it . 

After you have popped it, soak the finger with the blister in a solution of warm water and alum powder. You can get alum powder in the first aid aisle (and it's cheap) or in with the pickling spices (where it's more expensive). The alum is an astringent and will help pull the fluid away. 

The proportion of alum and water isn't important, and neither is the soaking time, about 10 -15 minutes is good. Do this at night and again in the morning for a couple of days until the blister is staying dry underneath. (You may need to pop the blister again if the fluid builds up.) Eventually the top skin will split of its own accord, at which point you can trim it off, and the underneath layer will already be somewhat toughened. 

It doesn’t hurt to soak all your fingers, even the ones without blisters. The alum will help toughen those fingers a little too. The soaking will also relieve soreness in your fingers, even if they aren’t blistered. Also note that I never pop a blood blister. I let those heal on their own. 

This method has always worked for me, but everybody's fingers are different. Let me know if you try it and tell me how it works for you!


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