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What is Blister Packaging?

By Ron Marr
Updated May 17, 2024
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You generally know you have purchased a product encased in blister packaging when you are unable to open your purchase without the use of very heavy scissors or a very sharp knife. While this packaging may be the bane of consumers, it has become a favorite of manufacturers. It allows a product to be highly visible, leading to more point of purchase sales, and also lessens packaging costs.

As another benefit, blister packaging reduces store losses from shoplifting. It prevents small items, often consumer electronics, from being opened and slipped into a pocket by those who seek to cheat stores via a “five finger discount.” For both retailers and manufacturers, any method that reduces theft is a boon to bottom-line profits.

There are several different varieties of blister packaging, but all function on the same premise. The product is encased in a cavity of hard plastic and sealed shut, usually via an assembly line heating process. Blister packs can be very small or very large, depending on the product in question, and their uses are seemingly endless.

One of the most prevalent forms of blister packaging, and also the most user-friendly, is found in single-dose strips of both over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription pharmaceuticals. The packs not only provide protection to the drugs themselves, but can be handy for the consumer in helping them make certain they have taken the correct dosage. These blister packs open quite easily, and do not require excessive ripping, tearing, cutting, or cursing.

This is not the case with many blister packaged consumer products, and the most detested form of packaging is referred to as the clamshell. One will often find clamshell packaging encasing products such as small electronic goods, children’s actions figures, and tools. A very hard, plastic shell is formed around a mold of the item to be sold. On the reverse side of the shell, a bright, product card is encased in a form-fitting, plastic sleeve. The shell is then heated, and an extremely strong adhesive bonds the two sides into a nearly impregnable package.

It is estimated that over 5,000 people injure themselves each year attempting to open blister packaging of the clamshell variety. In response to this fact, a device known at the Open X® was created. This product is designed to safely and efficiently open clamshell blister packaging and reduce injuries. However, there is but one problem with this otherwise fine idea. The Open X® is only displayed and sold in a clamshell blister pack.

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Discussion Comments

By anon356779 — On Nov 28, 2013

What are the disadvantages?

By kylee07drg — On Jun 09, 2012

One of my favorite brands of gum uses plastic blister packaging. I’m not sure if this is to protect the gum from exposure to the elements or if it is just to look neat and have a slim package.

The gum is supposed to whiten my teeth, and it has a strong peppermint flavor. Perhaps the blister packaging is supposed to lock in the flavor and keep the teeth whitening ingredients from degrading.

The blister package slides into a cardboard sleeve. I can slide it out and pop a piece of gum out in two seconds.

By Perdido — On Jun 09, 2012

@Oceana - I have had some bad experiences with medications in blister packaging. It seems that my pharmacist really likes to give out this type of package, because recently, he gave me both of my blood pressure medications in blister packages rather than in the usual bottles.

The backing is more secure than it is on several over-the-counter medications, so the pills are very hard to remove. I can’t just pop them through the back. I have to use a knife or scissors, and I usually end up cutting my fingers.

I think that the most trouble I’ve ever had with blister packaged medication was with a five-day dose pack of steroids. Maybe since these drugs can be dangerous, the pharmacist or doctor wanted to be sure that no kids could possibly get into them.

By Oceana — On Jun 08, 2012

I like buying my allergy medication in blister packaging rather than in bottles. They are small pills, and if I have them in a bottle, I tend to spill them out everywhere when I tip it over. Also, I sometimes take it by the light of my nightlight, and it can be hard to tell how many I have in my hand.

The blister packaging takes the guesswork out of the dosage. If I feel and hear that popping sound, I know that I have exactly one antihistamine in my hand, and I swallow it without having to double check.

My dog’s monthly heartworm prevention pills come in blister packages, too. The pills are huge, so I have no problem pushing them through the foil.

By StarJo — On Jun 07, 2012

A blister package opener sold in blister packaging materials was either meant as a joke by the manufacturer or was an oversight on their part. Imagine the frustration of ordering something that could finally put an end to all the struggles of opening up blister packages, only to find it trapped in the very thing you are trying to destroy!

I detest blister packages. I understand why they are made, because they definitely make it harder for shoplifters to hide something under their clothes. However, they create headaches for the rest of us.

By anon255527 — On Mar 17, 2012

Why do we use blister packs?

By anon86459 — On May 25, 2010

what are the advantages?

By anon82262 — On May 05, 2010

what are the disadvantages of blister packaging?

By anon76713 — On Apr 11, 2010

Oh, the irony!

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