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.

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  1. Rob

    I’ve had terrible eczema since i was a small child. In my teens, I realized that turning the water up hotter than normal and directing it at my trouble areas (behind my knees, on my feet) gave me an intense pleasure and, most importantly, stopped these areas from itching. I’m now in my 50’s and hot water is my absolute GO TO when needing to relieve an eczema itch.

    The KEY is not to go from warm water to scalding quickly. You need to slowly crank up the temp/hot water…you’ll feel the itch become stronger but as you reach a specific water temp, the itch changes to that orgasmic feeling everyone here talks about.

    Sometimes I need to wave the shower head over the itching area as the temp increases….again, if you up the temp too quickly, it doesn’t work nearly as well. I do the waving technique on my belly simply because it’s too sensitive an area to just blast with hot water.

    I’ve done it thousands of times over the decades and have never caused myself any ill effects. I expect I will do this until the day I perish.

  2. Albert
    Gaines mi.

    I stumbled onto the hot water treatment quite by accident, I had actually stopped showering before bed because it created such a maddening itch I couldn’t sleep. The hot water treatment stops the itch long enough to get several hours of sleep. Even though it was working for me I was scared that something was wrong, mainly afraid I had some kind of nerve damage. Couldn’t understand how scalding water could help my itch and feel good instead of burn. Most times I would be red as a beet afterwards. Very glad to learn the truth.

  3. Steve

    I was attacked by bed bugs and had all these bites that itched like crazy. But I got a tremendous amount of relief using the hottest water method.

  4. Beverly
    Farmers Branch, Tx.

    I also have experienced mild to extreme itching for the last 7 years. I tried yogart rub, all different creams and oils. BUT, the hot water treatment WORKS!!!

    Now, when I shower I was only the necessary parts with Aveeno bath wash, then turn up the water heat and soak everything. After I dry, I wash down with alcohol. Let me tell you it has stopped about 95% of my itching.

  5. Dave

    20 years ago my doctor gave me some temporary medication for something that I had a terrible reaction to. I don’t remember for what, but my hands and feet swelled and started itching so badly I nearly lost my mind. While waiting to get back to the Doc, my brother told me to run my hands under hot water, as hot as I could stand, and WOW,what an experience, such a cornucopia of emotions. I then hit the shower for my feet. If I smoked I probably would have had a cigarette. It has never failed to stop an itch. I do a lot of outdoors stuff so I have my share of itches.

  6. Kate M
    Petoskey, MI

    I am very sensitive to poison ivy and I have used the hot water trick for years! It gets me a work day without itching and I do it again before bed so I can get through the night without itching!

  7. Jack

    So nice to hear others’ experience this intense “hurts so good” feeling with hot water or air when suffering from insect bites and poison ivy. Indeed, as the rash subsides so does the “pleasure response”.

    I think what is happening is that your immune cells that degranulate little packets of prostaglandins and histamines in response to noxious stimuli are hyper active when suffering from poison ivy or bites. The heat causes a sudden massive release and subsequent satifying feeling.

    That is what we are trying to do with itching the scratch but heat does so much more efficiently. Afterwards the cells are depleted of their little histamine packets so we dont feel the urge to itch for awhile. Cold water afterwards stabilizes the cells even more.

    • Heywuld J

      Please do some fact-checking before posting: There is no “pleasure response” with insect bites or poison ivy.

  8. joe

    This works great for me as well. I find that it also gives one peace of mind in that you feel in control knowing that even if you aren’t near a shower, you can get relief later when you are near one. You become the master of the itch instead of it mastering you (and torturing you). I suspect that it isn’t more widely recommended because some people would do it wrong, burn themselves, and then sue the doctor that told them. Easier to just prescribe some medicine, which never worked as well as the hot water treatment does for me.

  9. Sebastien

    It feels so good! Better than simply scratching over affected area. If I wasn’t careful, I’d fall off my feet. I’m glad to discover this is a method that works and reading about other people confirm it.

  10. Mimi

    Would this work on my grandson’s eczema?

  11. Stacy
    Lancaster, CA

    that orgasmic feeling …I thought I was the only one who felt it when using scalding water on the itchy area. I’m shocked to read about other people describing it the same way and that people actually use this method. And wow does it relieve that itch like nothing else!!… for hours, and all night. and I find that once the area heals (because of not scratching it with my nails) I no longer feel the need to do the hot water thing.

  12. David
    New Jersey

    Believe you me, using HOT water does in fact ease and most times, eliminates the itching for hours (Need a good night sleep)? I’m 60 and have been doing this for poison Ivy for decades. Just try to control the water flow so the area you’re washing drains away from your body so as to NOT to get any ‘new poison’ on you that has been washed from your wounds. It will spread a ‘little’ but not that much and it’s worth what it does to ease the itching!

  13. Cherry

    I have a bunch of mosquito bites on my ankles. I can’t take direct heat from the hair dryer so I decided to try putting some Tiger Balm (it’s similar to IcyHot or BenGay) on them and the crazy itchiness went away almost immediately. Relief at last!

  14. Orgasm Leg
    Vancouver, Canada

    I have a related situation: During days in hot weather, especially if wearing long pants, I get a condition very similar to ‘prickly heat’ on both lower legs, where they get red, weepy and extremely itchy.

    However, I have found that blasting the effected areas with hot water from a shower nozzle dosen’t just curb the itch, it generates a strong burst of pleasure that I can only compare to an orgasm, albeit centered on the area and no ‘pulses’ of pleasure, just full on arching of the back, mouth hanging open sensation of orgasm-level pleasure.

    This lasts for at least 20 seconds before the sensation starts to both become dulled and slightly painful in the blasted area. To renew the pleasure, I just move the showerhead around to other itchy areas. All told, get an average 2 minutes of non-stop orgasmic pleasure doing this in the shower. Can also be induced with any other heat source outside of the shower, like a hot water bottle pressed directly to the effected skin.

    This is becoming addictive, and I am afraid I may be damaging my skin or nerves doing this. Having the pleasure/pain nerves crosswired like this cannot be a good sign.

    Eventually, when the weather turns cooler, this happens less and less often.

    Does anyone else experience this, and even more important, does anyone know what the hell is causing this??

  15. alx

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

    • Perry

      Yes, I feel the same orgasm.
      The only way to ejaculate is to increase the temperature of the hot water until it scalds my palms and I am forced to remove them.

    • Alex

      Same “O” experience here with itch and hot water but it’s not good for the skin in the long term. I found that a thin stream of hot water under pressure on any itch seems to be the most awesome of all. I’ve been doing it for 30 years and wanted to stop but find it hard. I’ve tried creams and oils to no avail. I did find that a Tens machine with pads very close together on folded (pinched up) skin gives a similar “O” feeling without the damage. However, it is only safe to be used below the waist well away from the heart.

  16. 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

  17. 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 .

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. RK

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

  22. 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!

    • Helen

      Just yesterday I bought an inexpensive small hair dryer and gave it a try on some nasty rashy patches. Worked like a charm! The effect lasts for several hours. But you do have to be very careful. As the hot air hits the itchy spot . . . itching . . . itching . . . itching . . . BURN!

      And at the moment the itching stops and is replaced with a burning sensation, you move the dryer away and pick another spot. The first time I tried it, I was trembling slightly by the time I finished. It’s a bit unnatural to be flirting with causing harm to oneself, I guess. But it’s nothing compared to the harm you can do to yourself by constant scratching. To say nothing of the emotional toll.

      • Helen

        PS: I’ve also had success with hot water, but it’s not always practical. Also, it strips precious oils from the skin.

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

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