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Hot Water for Itchy Bug Bites

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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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Yes Yes Yes! It is true!

I am a mosquito magnet and the only thing that works for me is to put my poor bitten legs under running hot water. I use soap and water to wash my legs (and get a good scratching in!) and then rinse with hotter water. The hot water heater is sufficient. After I have been out feeding the mosquitos, I just come in and take hot shower or an appendage bath. Then it is over.

Me too! I get so many bites that sometimes I scratch so hard I end up with scratches & abrasions all over my arms and legs. Then I can't use products to ease the itch because lotions & sprays sting in broken skin. Next time I will try hot water. It has to be better than scratching myself to death.

A hairdryer on the lowest setting works too for anything itchy, poison ivy, bug bites, etc...Get it as warm as you can stand it for as long as you can stand it (urge to scratch will be intense!) and you will see relief!

Yes, it does work for my numerous bug bites, including fleas. Not for spiders, though. But I find that running water is not necessary; I take a very small amount and put in a bowl and microwave for 15 seconds, then dip a cloth or paper towel in it and apply to the bite until it cools. About 20 seconds. It may still itch for a while after that, but soon stops. I find this to be much more energy efficient than running water constantly or taking a shower. But I take a shower too if I have a lot of bites.

I've used a small vacuum pump (Aspivenin) sold in European drugstores and pharmacies. Works well for mosquitos, wasps, scorpions, ticks etc. It comes with different suction cups, and depending on the bite, I apply suction for 1-2 minutes and then wipe the spot with a paper handkerchief.

I read this for the first time 09-21-09. Years ago I had a bad case of poison ivy on my forearms. The only way I could find relief was to fill the bathroom sink with hot water and soak my forearms until the itching stopped.

So glad to be reminded of this. I used to get poison ivy a lot and used the hot water method for relief. I recently got many bug bites (don't know what kind), and will certainly use this method on them. Many thanks!

I'm glad to be reminded about hot water for itching. I used to get poison ivy frequently and discovered that hot water helped a lot. I hadn't thought about using it for bug bites, but will certainly try it. Mosquitos LOVE me!

I have never heard anyone else who knew about hot water and itching -- when I was a kid I was plagued with HORRIBLE bouts with athlete's feet, 2nd degree, where I would get infections and have to be off my feet in summer for several days. I had to soak my feet in a totally ineffective tub with a purple pill every few hours... once, rinsing it off, I started turning the water hotter and hotter and it felt SO good. From that time on, very very hot water allowed me to go for several hours itch free, and was like a miracle cure!

I didn't know hot water was recommended for itching, but as a number of others have said, I also discovered its effectiveness accidentally. I always ended up with a terrible case of poison ivy in the summertime and found running hot water over the area was extremely helpful in relieving the itch. I see it's not recommended for poison ivy, but it sure was a great discovery and really helped at the time.

Hairdryer worked fabulously.

Sometimes hot water makes bites swell. So I wait until they are already swollen, and then when I am taking a shower, I turn up the water temperature and blast the bites! (I live in a semi-tropical country at the edge of the desert, so you can imagine how "backwards" it is to use steaming hot water only in the summer!)

Hot water Does work! Run the hottest tap water -and put the affected part with the insect bite under the hot water. Just hold it there momentarily. Or for as long as you can stand it. It relieves the itch for hours -sometimes days. Or alternatively you can place a hot washcloth on the itch.

Thank you so much. I've been suffering with chigger bites for the last couple of days to the point where I haven't been able to sleep. This is the only thing that's worked, and it worked so well, I think I might actually sleep tonight.

When my daughter gets bitten the bites come out in large lumps and she finds it so hard to not to scratch them. I've tried many products to stop the itching but none seem to work for her. I also heard that vinegar is great for bite, is this true?


I have been suffering from bites on my lower legs for months,driving me insane. A few weeks ago I accidentally ran too much hot water in my bath, felt instant relief when the water soaked my legs, the relief lasted hours. I soak any infected areas frequently now, throughout the day, the hotter the water, the better the relief. Talk about pain and pleasure!!!!

Hot water is THE miracle cure for relief of mosquito bites!

I read about doing the hot water treatment a couple of years ago, and I have not needed to use cortisone or any other type of anti-itch cream since.

The heat of the water - as hot as you can stand it without getting burned - switches off the histamine reaction from mosquito bites. Just a few seconds under hot running water, or a minute applying a hot water compress, and voila! The itch is gone, and it stays gone for at least several hours.

This method is so much kinder to your skin than scratching. Just one scratch of a mosquito bite is enough to spread the venom and get that histamine reaction turned on. At the first sign of an itch, run to the faucet, and get the hot water on that bite as soon as possible. Almost INSTANT relief! And, it's organic. :)

it really is the most amazing thing ... I got bitten up pretty badly about a week ago. they were SO SO itchy! I did everything I could to make it stop. I tried so bad not to scratch because I don't want the scares. Hydrocortisone cream or benedryl spray didn't work at all! I've used rubbing alcohol in the past, but it wasn't doing anything to take away the itch this time. The other day I felt the urge to "clean" them ... I was just doing anything to stop the itch. I accidentally made the water too hot and found it felt so good on my legs, like an intense scratching would, but without breaking or damaging the skin. Then when I stopped, the itching was completely gone!

I've been doing this a few times a day now. I can't believe I found a miracle cure for itchy bug bites. We just moved to Costa Rica, so this is going to be very helpful. My husband has several scares now on the bottom of his legs from scratching and now this hot water trick is going to completely alleviate the problem. Also good to know that it's heat in general, like some of the other comments mentioned that a blow dryer works, as well.

Victoria, that is -great- to hear that you have found the miracle hot water treatment for bites, and that your husband is using it now too! :)

My husband has yet to get any mosquito bites since I discovered the hot water trick, and he thinks I'm a bit wacky for doing it. The next time we go on holiday to the Caribbean or some other mosquito-infested place, though, I can promise you that he'll be putting his bites under the faucet and/or shower!

Three cheers for hot water on bug bites! Hip hip HOORAY!

I received 93 bites from No-see-ums on the Chesapeake Bay this weekend and they are all swollen, red, weeping, and unbearably itchy, way worse than mosquitoes. The hot water treatment worked great, it got the itching feeling under control almost immediately and lasts for an hour or so. Not the permanent fix some people get, but I am especially allergic to these bugs and the bite sites persist for many weeks and leave scars. Any relief no matter how temporary is great!

Personally, this doesn't help at all. Actually, it makes it quite worse. Whenever I'm covered in mosquito bites and I take a hot shower, it itches a million times more and continues to itch horribly after I get out of the shower for a little while. I'm not saying this is wrong, maybe it works for some people, but definitely not for me.

3 hours? Try for good! So glad I found out about this. 30 years, why didn't somebody tell me? Hurray for the Internet... I dip a towel in boiling water, and as soon as it cools to the point I can barely stand it, I dab dab dab and then when it is cool enough, hold the wet corner of cloth to the bite; 2 or 3 repeats and the horribly itchy bump is now just a bump. There might still be a little itch, but it is 90% gone. Of course, your results may vary.

I think there is more going on than simply short-circuiting the nerves. Could the heat deactivate the irritant? Just unscientific speculation.

"They're back..."

I live in a public housing multi-unit/apartment complex for seniors and for people with disabilities, which is totally infested with bed bugs. And because the housing authority is not treating the building comprehensively, the infestation has been going on for years now. The bed bugs simply move/spread from one apartment to the next, when one apartment is sprayed or when people move in or out (bringing bed bugs into common areas, like the halls, where they scurry to surrounding apartments to find the nearest human and good hiding place).

Suffice to say, I have bed bugs in apartment and have been getting bed bug bites for several months now. I have tried hydrocortisone cream, triamcinolone, calamine, a salt-water paste, a baking soda paste, benadryl topical, vinegar, etc... None of these have helped that much and I have developed a secondary bacterial infection, cellulitis, a couple of times from the bites.

So far, what I have found works the best for treating and relieving the itch of the bites is:

1. Running very hot (as hot as possible without leaving a burn) over the bites for at least 30 seconds...
2. Cleaning with Rubbing Alcohol
3. Applying 100 percent aloe vera gel on bites
4. Taking generic benadryl (2 tabs of 25 mg diphenhydramine at least twice daily. Do not exceed 6 tabs or 150 mg in a 24 hour period).

The water needs to be very hot, but not scalding or boiling, and I've found that a simple hot shower is not hot enough to do the trick.

To J.C., wow I am very sorry to hear that your senior and disabled housing complex is infested with bed bugs. Can you complain to the county health department? Nobody should have to live with that misery. The housing authority needs to step up and protect vulnerable citizens.

I heard about this elsewhere; it really does work, and not just for bug bites. I've had eczema my whole life, and whenever I have any kind of healing owie, I get an itchy rash. I've come up with a way of applying the hot water without needing to expose your hands to it, or causing the water to cool too much before application.

Have on hand: Cotton balls, some kind of small tongs (I use bamboo toast tongs; teabag would work too), container for boiling and holding water, and one for containing drippage

~Heat the water (boiling, baby!)
~Pour into holding container (a clean measuring cup or coffee cup is fine)
~Hold a cotton ball with the tongs. Dip the ball into the very hot water. Squeeze out slightly against the wall of the cup.
~Gently press the hot cotton ball against the itchy spot for a few seconds. You can move it around and redip as needed.

What I've heard is that this causes a release of histamine that is then held in abeyance for at least an hour. Since NO topical itch stuff works on me--makes it worse--this is a godsend!

Peoples Pharmacy response: Please take care not to burn yourself with the hot water!

Just curious... are you using any type of soap or cleanser in the shower? If so, maybe that's what's making you itch.
Sometimes skin itches when it's too alkaline and needs to be returned to an acid state. Apple cider vinegar helps with this.

Look up Dr. D.C. Jarvis, Vermont Folk Medicine....he has a book that's very informative and helpful....using common household ingredients.

Does anyone know if an electric heating pad would work for this...or is it not hot enough?

~Or maybe a heated spoon or butter knife.

~Or one of those microwaveable rice bags people use for sore muscles.

~Or some boiling hot water in a coffee mug....and just hold the mug against the bites.

~Or heat a wet washcloth in the microwave....that can get REALLY be careful.

I was doing that with the hot water for bites but my doctor claims I shouldn't do that because it makes the histamine come out.

I am a mosquito, flea, spider magnet. They all love me.

The last two days I was INSANE dealing with the itching from over 20 bites on each of my feet and ankles. I don't know where they came from (I'm assuming somewhere in my garden?) but I came across this, and another article about actually using a blow-dryer. I tried both. Hot water, AND a blow dryer.

Heat is obviously the answer. After two days (and two nights not being able to sleep) I have relief. Last night I used the blow dryer and I slept through the night.

Best remedy EVER!!! Hot water, hot spoon, blow dryer... whatever you have access to, they all work!

When I have an itching problem I hop into the shower, position just the itchy part in the spray, then slowly increase the temperature until all the itch nerves seem to 'fire' at the same time and you get that orgasmic feeling. Then you are done and the itching will be gone for hours. I keep our water heater set just above the hottest comfortable setting so you still can't burn yourself. By creeping up on the minimum temperature required to stop the itch you use the lowest temperature that works.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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?

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!

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