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.

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  1. Florence M.
    Reply

    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.
    Florence

  2. Denise
    Reply

    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.

  3. RK
    Reply

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

  4. Shirley
    Reply

    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.

  5. Kathy
    Reply

    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.

  6. Denise
    Reply

    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.

  7. Nancy
    Reply

    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.

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