a mosquito on somone's skin, dengue fever, Zika virus, keep mosquitoes from biting

Q. I must be especially tasty to mosquitos, since they attack me and leave other folks alone. I have read in your column about hot water to stop itching. I’ve got a different solution: warm a spoon in hot water and then put the back of the spoon on the bite. That stops the itch for several hours.

A. We have seen this suggestion on the Internet. It often includes the explanation that the heat denatures the protein that causes itching when mosquitos inject it under the skin.

We suspect that the actual mechanism has more to do with the temporary effect of heat on nerve endings. Years ago, we read about using heat (in the form of hot tap water) to relieve itching in the medical textbook,  Dermatology: Diagnosis and Treatment (1961). The itch sensation can be overwhelmed for several hours with this approach.

Take care not to cause a burn, which would be worse than the mosquito bite.

Some readers have also reported temporary relief by applying household products that contain herbal compounds, especially Listerine or Vicks VapoRub, to the itchy bite. If you have a remedy you find especially helpful, tell us about it in the comment section below.

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  1. Michael

    I personally swear by the hot spoon, whether it’s the protein thing or the mechanical nerve thing, it works for me like very little else does. Tips to get it right: make the water as hot as you can bear, everytime it’s been successful for me I was wondering if I might be exchanging my bug welt for a burn blister (I haven’t yet actually given myself a blister,) keeps the spoon or spoons submerged so the metal heats through- this gives it enough heat/time to properly do the thing to your skin. Lastly, let it linger maybe apply the spoon 2 or 3 times to a bite that has spread out.

  2. Paul
    Great State of TEXAS

    In Texas, the heat and mosquitoes keep us locked up indoors. So trust me when I say “I been bit before.”

    During a recent road trip to Wisconsin, my sister and my friend Mary and I went hammocking. The mosquitoes got us pretty bad while we were in the woods. They got us real good. But being the TOUGH TEXAN that I am, I endured the itchiness. Mary, on the other hand, being from the fragile state of Iowa, couldn’t handle the itching. She heated up some spoons and proceeded in some sort of witchcraft. When comforted, she explained it “Soothed the itching.” Naturally, I was curious, so I allowed her to try it on 1 of my 3,000 mosquito bites (bad decision on my end, I know). She proceeded to jam a glowing, red hot spoon on my forearm.

    The next thing I remember, I wake up on the floor with a permanent burn mark on my arm.
    I would have to agree, the itching from the mosquito bite most definitely DID stop. But now it was replaced with a burning sensation. Let’s just say, my friendship with Mary burned up that day, just like the inside of my arm.

    I haven’t been back to Wisconsin since, let alone Iowa.

  3. Mary

    After being attacked in Wisconsin woods by Mosquitoes, I used this remedy. Worked for me and my friend! :)

    • Jason

      The intention is not to brand yourself on the most sensitive skin with a scalding piece of cutlery. You need a more subtle approach. The spoon should be as hot as you can possibly bear. DO NOT DO IT ON SOMEONE ELSE. ALWAYS APPLY IT TO YOURSELF. Start by applying the tip of the spoon only then apply more and more of the spoon as you become accustomed to the heat. Similar to jumping into a very hot bath. There should be a moderate level of discomfort/pain but this should only last for a few seconds, followed by relief. If this doesn’t happen, then you are doing it incorrectly. This solution may not work for everyone as we all have different pain thresholds and it does require a fair amount of heat but it works for me an many of the people I have introduced it to.

  4. Betty

    i just read about using Chlorasceptic throat spray…..works great ! I spray some on a cotton ball and apply. Give it a few minutes and the itch is relieved.

  5. Jane

    Thanks for all the tips.
    I was bitten many times today in South London UK and I always swell up really badly and itch terribly for at least 4 days after the bite.
    After reading all the advice and comments I didnt know which to choose, so firstly I applied the Antibacterial hand gel with alcohol and it worked ok but it still itched. Then I did the hot compress and that worked really well plus I have now applied some English Lavender essential oil undilutted – I am now at peace at last. I can still feel the tightness of the skin around the bites, but the madness of the itch has gone. They are still swollen but I think thats part of the bite problem.
    Thanks to all for the advice

  6. melanie

    It absolutely works. I had over 40 bites, most in my life, worked better than calamine lotion….and I tried everything!

  7. Andrea
    Northern California

    Bactine spray! Spray before you scratch. The bite will probably be gone the next day. It has antiseptic plus lidocaine. I am a mosquito magnet and swear by it!

  8. Brett

    I used the hot spoon method. It worked at first, but the swelling didn’t go away, it got worse and spread further. Still itches too. I don’t see how I could’ve messed this up, but I guess it’s entirely possible.

    • Raquel
      South Carolina, USA

      The first time I tried it it didn’t work and I believe it’s because my tap water is not too hot. Today I got “eaten” by mosquitoes while “babysitting” my cat in the backyard (so he won’t run away) and I itched madly when I got back inside and big red welts had formed, so I heated some water in the microwave and went to work, at first the water was not hot enough because I only felt relief like on the first bite so I heated it more and voila! I started cooking my dinner and even forgot about the bites, it’s been over 2 hours now and I noticed I only have a few flat red spots, not a gazillion welts like before. :D

  9. Ann Rees

    I have had two bites in the past week and I tried the hot spoon method I have had no itching or inflammation just a little spot so a great result As I am very allergic, it’s over 24 hours and no problem so far.

  10. Mark

    My wife introduced me to the idea of putting cortisone cream on my bites covered with band-aids. covering them keeps my clothes (or a blanket) from rubbing against the bites. Very effective…. I’m trying the hot spoon trick this morning. It works!

  11. Sara Chapman

    The heat thing works so well. My mom taught me this many, many years ago. Hot tap water or a hot compress can work, but I like the idea of a spoon back as you can target the area more effectively. With hot water, it feels great on the itchy area but the non-itchy skin doesn’t like it at all. Hot as you can stand works best.

  12. Don

    Aloe Vera provides instant relief for mosquito bites.

  13. bev29

    Use a fingernail to put an X on the bite, then forget about for awhile.
    Works every time for me. Also heard that toothpaste works too.
    If it is another type of bug bite and use Calendula ointment just a bit on the tip of Q tip and cover the bite with a thin covering. Then in about 20 minutes you will see a bubble of liquid over the hole — it I use the other side of the Q tip to blot the liquid and then put on another thin layer. Spending on the size of the bite it might take few times to blot away the liquid. No more itch and only a tiny little hole left. This works really well for me on spider bites.

  14. ns

    I suspect you may be wrong about the topical Benedryl not getting into the system. The tube of cream I have warns against using it topically and orally at the same time because of overdosing issues. Just a word to the wise to always read the labels.

  15. Mary

    Since I had already been using Milk of Magnesia as a deodorant, it suddenly occurred to me that it might reduce itching. I had seen various articles on transdermal magnesium and its benefits.
    I applied it to my abdomen where it was itching intensely and there was no mosquito bite there either. The itch stopped immediately and lasted for a while.
    I did rub it in long enough where it was not likely to get on my clothes.

  16. mam

    After taking a nice hot bath I use that Seed (all natural) lavender hand lotion. It is amazing how quickly it works for me.

  17. rh

    The first thing one should do after being bitten is to wash the affected area with soap & water before applying anything for the itch. This will prevent an infection from diseases spread by mosquito bites. Only after washing, should one apply something for the itch. I like the cortisone spray product but I suspect it is the alcohol base that is just as effective as the steroid. I have also used essential oils and find oil of oregano to be especially good for the itch. It causes a warm sensation so it may be the heat, just like the effect of hot water. I put some oil of oregano in a spray bottle of vinegar and used this solution to clean my chicken coop. Lo and behold, no more flies around the coop.

  18. C R M

    I always ice the bite to stop the itching. Because I don’t scratch it, it doesn’t scab over and keep itching. I have had bites in the past that seemed to take two weeks to stop itching and heal.

  19. art

    Only the female of the species bites and, transmits the deadly West Nile Virus”. I use Organic Apple Cider Vinegar to relieve the itching and inflammation from the mosquito bite. It works quite well and the vinegar smell will disappear within an hour!

  20. Leesia

    Mosquitoes come across town to find me – so I have tried everything over the years and that thing that seems to help the most for me is putting a piece of scotch tape over the bite – in seconds the itch and burn from the bites subsides – just make sure you pull the tape off before getting into the shower!

  21. Sally

    My husband uses moistened tobacco to cure bee stings & also mosquito bites! It works! His grandmother told him about this in KY when he was growing up. I keep a cigarette in my glove compartment in the car. I do not smoke, but keep one handy!

  22. Mm

    We were traveling and I got a mosquito bite. I tried Purell on it and the itch went away I googled it and Purell has alcohol in it that relieves itch.

  23. CAC

    I get relief from swabbing alcohol on the itchy welts from gnat and mosquito bites.

  24. Thom

    An old lady friend of mine would take a ripe strawberry or two with apple cider vinegar and let it set for a couple/few days and then strain it. I’m not sure how long the shelf life is. I think she just left it out. She is no longer with us to ask. (I will ask her daughter and update this). You dip your fingers in the solution and rub it on several times a day. It does work, but you need to prepare this a head of time. I also heard that your own spit is good when you are first bitten and I find that to work well too, and it is always handy! LOL

  25. SB

    Will have to try! I’ve also found that good lavender essential oils applied directly to the bite helps with itching.

  26. George Brock

    For any itch I always use Witch Hazel. This is a classic remedy.

  27. npk

    When I come back into the house after having been “eaten alive” (I am a mosquito magnet) I apply Sarna to my bites..and then again just before going to bed. It really subdues the itching.

  28. Judy

    Topical benadryl gel stops itching that is caused by an allergic reaction — bites and hives. It might not be that the mosquitos bite you more (though that’s possible); it might be that you react more strongly to their bites. I’m like you — bugs love to bite me and I itch like crazy. I haven’t found anything better for bites than benadryl gel, or the generic drugstore equivalents. It doesn’t get into your system and make you sleepy the way a benadryl pill does and it stops the itching immediately.

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