Most people get itchy bug bites. Mosquitoes, chiggers, fleas, flies, lice, midges and mites can all trigger an itch for a few days. Some people are so sensitive to the saliva of biting insects, however, that they develop persistent itching and blistering. Bug bites that blister likely will require medical attention. For example, a dermatologist consultant recommends a powerful corticosteroid gel for people who are super sensitive to chigger bites. He prescribes a tiny dab of super-strong clobetasol at the first sign of redness and itching. That can diminish the severity of the reaction. For more mild reactions, though, hot water can be surprisingly effective as this reader reports.
Hot Water for Bug Bites that Blister:
Q. I have horrible allergic reactions to insect bites. I am so sensitive that bites cause a level of itching that has me in tears. They almost always blister and look terrible.
Today, my brother told me about hot water for itching. It is my saving grace.
A. We first read about hot water for itching over 40 years ago in a textbook called Dermatology: Diagnosis and Treatment edited by a renowned expert, Dr. Marion Sulzberger. Water needs to be hot (120 to 130 degrees F) but not so hot that it will burn skin. A few seconds is all that is needed. A hot washcloth can also help.
The theory is that heat overwhelms nerves in the skin that trigger itch sensations. The relief can last for a few hours.
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How Does Hot Water Work Bug Bites?
Want to know more about how hot water works? Here is a more in-depth explanation:
There are even battery-powered devices that deliver heat to the bite. One is Therapik. Another is Bite Helper.
Readers Share Stories:
Mary in Connecticut reports:
“Hot water helps ease my itch for hours. For most of my life it has been my go-to remedy even though it doesn’t actually cure the itch. One should always find out what is behind bad itching. That said, hot water does offer tremendous relief and that is the most important thing in the moment.”
Laura in Grants Pass, Oregon has a modification on hot water for itching bug bites:
“I grab a spoon or kitchen knife that I put in a cup of hot water. Then I place the spoon over an itchy bug bite. I may have to do it a few times. I find that the itch goes away really fast after using the spoon. If the itch comes back, I just repeat the process. It feels so much better than scratching, which is far more temporary and can damage the skin.”
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” Read Joe's Full Bio.
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