More than 30 years ago we stumbled across this bizarre tip in a dermatology text book (Dermatology: Diagnosis and Treatment, 1961, P. 94) edited by a giant in the field, Dr. Marion Sulzberger. The water has to be hot, roughly 120 to 130 degrees F. That means it is uncomfortable, but no so hot as to burn sensitive skin. The application is VERY short…a couple of seconds at most. Either expose the skin very briefly to hot running water or use a hot washcloth for a second or two.

According to the dermatology experts from the 1960s, the hot water “short circuits” the itch reflex. In other words, the nerve network in the skin gets so overloaded by the heat stimulus, the urge to scratch is abolished for up to three hours. You will be amazed at how fast the relief occurs.

A word of caution, however. This approach is probably not a good idea for poison ivy where there are open sores or big blisters. Serious skin irritation or itching requires medical diagnosis and treatment. Be VERY careful NOT to burn yourself with water that is too hot. Only a second or two exposure is necessary.

To read more about this remedy and comments from visitors, visit our Home Remedy Library at the top of this page. You can read comments like this one:

“This hot water cure WORKS and is miraculous as far as I am concerned. A few months ago I had a terrible bout with insect bites: some I think were a severe allergic reaction to a bite. I tried everything the pharmacy and my dermatologist had to offer, and then went to People’s Pharmacy web site in total desperation and read about the hot water treatment. I couldn’t believe it. At first you think it isn’t working, but then you stop the hot water and realize the itching is gone. I use it on any bite now, and have told everyone I know. It is great!”

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  1. Antony
    United Kingdom
    Reply

    It is very interested to see this post and that it has been recognised by someone of importance. I’ve suffered for years with terrible hand eczema and found a few years ago that hot water removes the itch for several hours, and also oddly gives an amazing (almost orgasmic) feeling at the same time which makes it quite addictive.

    I do only do it for a few seconds and always moisturise before and *immediately* after which seems to prevent skin damage. Any damage is worth it in my opinion as the alternative is constant application of steroid cream (which is proven to irreversibly damage the skin) or scratching it until it bleeds.

    The odd orgasmic feeling you get is mentioned elsewhere on the web by people with eczema and I’d like an explanation for this too (other than it’s just a more intense version of when you have an itch you can’t reach (like your back) and finally get someone to scratch it in just the right place!!).

  2. NEL
    Reply

    This is very interesting. I normally use my hot coffee mug. Can bear it for about 4 seconds. I must admit it is pleasure mixed with pain!

  3. a.b.
    Reply

    Here’s an interesting, hypochondriac thought: With that relieving hot water (& it does work), will the insect toxin (especially if there are a lot of bites) be given greater entry into the blood system?

  4. A.D.
    Reply

    Hi, I have eczema, mostly in my palms of my hands. Yes, the hot water is brilliant, destroys the itching feeling for a good time. But the question is, can this EXTREME frequent exposure to hot water cause nerve damage in that area on the long run, God forbid.

  5. RaeAnne H
    Reply

    Hot water is the best relief, I have also tried soaking in a tub with epson salt with hot water and it works wonders. When I get a mosquito bite it gets to be really big. Sometimes if it is on my foot I can’t walk unless I limp or don’t put pressure on it. My family thinks I am allergic but I don’t care enough to do anything about it. Anyway the hot water thing is great!

  6. Weng
    Reply

    I found out about this quite by accident and have found it to be the best way for mozzie bites (not sure about other types of bites though). Boil water, let it sit for a few minutes, dip towel, and dab for few seconds on the bite (as long as I can bear). The itch is gone for good. If it does return, just repeat. When I need to repeat it, I reckon it’s times where I don’t hold it there long enough. I had no idea it’s about short-circuiting the nerves. I thought it was to do with changing the form of the protein, which is what (I remember) causes the itch.

  7. Greg
    Reply

    Here is something else to try with an itch. Instead of scratching it hard, scratch (more like rub) it very lightly for a minute or two, avoiding the urge to press harder. The itch will very slowly dissipate.

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