a shower head spraying hot water

Q. Hot water works for itches! I used the hottest water I could stand for a few seconds on my mosquito bites. It gave much more relief than scratching and lasted for hours. Why isn’t this technique common knowledge?

A. We have been writing about hot water (hot enough to hurt but not so hot as to burn) for itchy bug bites for 36 years. We first learned about this remedy from a 1961 edition of the textbook, Dermatology: Diagnosis and Treatment. Perhaps it is no longer mentioned in medical school, since dermatologists now have potent corticosteroid creams to ease itching.
Hot water can also be helpful in easing the itch from poison oak or poison ivy. It should never be used for hives, however, as it can make them worse.

Join Over 100,000 Subscribers at The People's Pharmacy

Each week we send two free email newsletters with breaking health news, prescription drug information, home remedies and a preview of our award-winning radio show. Join our mailing list and get the information you need to make confident choices about your health.

  1. alx

    Hot water treatment works with any rash or itch. Have used it for years for every sort of itch or rash.

  2. ina

    hi this did not help as I have not been bitten, it is most in bed and I have used every thing the chemist has given me, I thought if I could get a cool spray. thank you ina

  3. Julie

    I have started to use a hair dryer to relieve the itch from bug bites….
    30 to 45 seconds 2 to 3 times a day….aim the hair dryer at the bite for a close as you can stand it .

  4. Dez Delp
    wallawalla, wa.

    I have a rash & while in the shower realized that hot water helps relieve the itch & doesn’t rip open the skin like scratching does. I get the water as hot as I can stand it. I hope this is ok to do as it helps so much.

  5. Florence M.

    I agree with the hot water for insect bites, but in the case of mosquito bites out in the open far from water, I immediately stick the end of a finger nail into the skin where bitten. For me it stops the pain right away.

  6. Denise

    Nancy, great idea about putting a damp washcloth in the microwave. I tried it yesterday with a damp cotton ball (11 seconds, power level 10) and you’re right! It is faster and doesn’t waste water. Plus: I could reach the spot without taking off my clothes and getting into the shower. Plus plus: With the cotton ball, I could apply the hot water very precisely – with my old way, water that was just right on the bite was really too hot for the surrounding skin. Word of warning to others: it might be easier to accidentally burn yourself this way, since most people’s hot water heaters are not set high enough to burn skin. Even at only 11 seconds in the microwave I had to let the cotton ball cool a little first.

  7. RK

    We have used this remedy for minor jellyfish stings, with good results. We also use the wet cloth in microwave method.

  8. Shirley

    I had used the hot water treatment for bug & mosquito bites. Now I have discovered something that isn’t quite so messy… I turn the hairdryer on high and hold it about 6 inches from the bite for just as long as I can stand it. You have to be very careful not to burn yourself. Then turn it away for a minute and repeat several times. That’s usually the last of the itch from that bite.

    • Julie

      I too have had success with you hair dryer method …thank you!

  9. Kathy

    I have been using hot water for years on poison ivy. It relieves the itch better than anything else and does so instantly. I take a hot shower just before going to bed and can sleep peacefully through the night.

  10. Denise

    Yes! As a gardener, I am frequently bitten by various insects and non-poisonous spiders. One of these is an as-yet-unidentified critter (not mosquito) whose bite produces an intensely itchy welt that persists for a week or more. Nothing I’ve tried, including oral Benadryl, topical lidocaine, and a strong prescription corticosteroid cream, works as well as the hot water treatment. Holding the itch under hot running water – as hot as I can stand it for as long as I can stand it – completely alleviates the itch for at least 8-10 hours. As a bonus, it feels really really good – even better than scratching.

  11. Nancy

    I have been using your recommendation of hot water for itching for several years now. It works extremely well for bug bites, but also for the itchy rash I sometimes get from gardening. If I pull up weeks without gloves, then touch my neck, the rash transfers to that area. Nothing relieves the intense itching better than hot water. I like to put a wet cloth in the microwave for about 40 seconds. Works faster than wasting running water waiting for it to get hot enough.

What Do You Think?

We invite you to share your thoughts with others, but remember that our comment section is a public forum. Please do not use your full first and last name if you want to keep details of your medical history anonymous. A first name and last initial or a pseudonym is acceptable. Advice from other commenters on this website is not a substitute for medical attention. Do not stop any medicine without checking with the prescriber. Stopping medication suddenly could result in serious harm. We expect comments to be civil in tone and language. By commenting, you agree to abide by our commenting policy and website terms & conditions. Comments that do not follow these policies will not be posted.