Give ’em a Hand: How to Properly Take Care of Your Hands

First Aid for Blisters

Blisters are small, raised lesions in which fluid collects under the skin. They are frequently caused by friction, so it is no surprise that musicians, from drummers to guitarists to clarinet players get blisters on their hands. Though they are relatively minor injuries, blisters can cause enough discomfort to curb your playing.


What, if anything, can be done?

The Mayo Clinic recommends keeping blisters intact, protected, and not punctured. Skin provides a natural barrier to bacteria and decreases the risk of infection. Cover the blister with an adhesive bandage that absorbs moisture and allows the skin to breathe. Blisters usually heal quickly once pressure has been relieved.

If you have diabetes, poor circulation, blisters not caused by friction, or other symptoms you should call your doctor before attempting any first-aid measures. Also, any time you have an open sore be sure to check that your tetanus injections are up to date.

If your blister is causing severe pain and preventing you from playing your instrument, you may need to drain the fluid.
Here’s how:

1. Wash your hands, including the blister area, with soap and water.

2. Swab the blister with an antiseptic.

3. Sterilize a clean, sharp needle by wiping it with rubbing alcohol.

4. Puncture the blister in several spots near its edge, keeping the skin intact.

5. Let the fluid drain out.

6. Reapply antibiotic ointment to the blister and cover it with a bandage.

7. If dead skin comes off, reapply antibiotic ointment and a fresh bandage.

8. Throughout these steps watch for signs of infection (pus, redness, increased
pain, or warmth). Call your doctor at the first indication.
Calluses Are Helpful

For musicians, calluses are often a more positive occurrence. They are areas of thick, hard, dead skin that have formed a
protective layer due to repeated pressure, friction, or injury. They may appear grayish or yellowish, and can be less sensitive to touch.

Calluses are normal and, in some cases, helpful to musicians. They commonly form in locations that have frequent contact with the instrument. They are a natural part of playing many instruments and only pose problems when they cause pain.

The best way to maintain your calluses is by regular playing. Always try to keep them dry and avoid playing your instrument with wet hands. Calluses do peel off from time to time. This is a natural part of the skin’s renewing process. Keep an eye on your calluses as some people are prone to excessive thickening and cracking skin and should see their doctor if this occurs. If you have an unwanted callus, that may or may not interfere
with your playing, there are several ways to treat it.


Here’s how:

1. If you have diabetes or other circulatory problems, visit your doctor. A health professional can probably pare or trim the callus during an office visit.

2. Otherwise, reduce the size of the callus by soaking it in warm water, and then using a pumice stone, lightly wear away the dead skin. Use caution because removing too much skin could cause bleeding or infection. Never attempt to cut the callus.

3. Alternatively, you could use nonprescription salicylic acid to soften the callus, then rub it off with a pumice stone. However, this is a more aggressive approach. The acid could damage surrounding skin. Some health professionals caution against it.

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