logoThe People's Perspective on Medicine

Hot Water for Itchy Bug Bites

More than 30 years ago we stumbled across this bizarre tip in a dermatology text book (Dermatology: Diagnosis and Treatment, 1961, P. 94) edited by a giant in the field, Dr. Marion Sulzberger. The water has to be hot, roughly 120 to 130 degrees F. That means it is uncomfortable, but no so hot as to burn sensitive skin. The application is VERY short…a couple of seconds at most. Either expose the skin very briefly to hot running water or use a hot washcloth for a second or two.

According to the dermatology experts from the 1960s, the hot water “short circuits” the itch reflex. In other words, the nerve network in the skin gets so overloaded by the heat stimulus, the urge to scratch is abolished for up to three hours. You will be amazed at how fast the relief occurs.

A word of caution, however. This approach is probably not a good idea for poison ivy where there are open sores or big blisters. Serious skin irritation or itching requires medical diagnosis and treatment. Be VERY careful NOT to burn yourself with water that is too hot. Only a second or two exposure is necessary.

To read more about this remedy and comments from visitors, visit our Home Remedy Library at the top of this page. You can read comments like this one:

“This hot water cure WORKS and is miraculous as far as I am concerned. A few months ago I had a terrible bout with insect bites: some I think were a severe allergic reaction to a bite. I tried everything the pharmacy and my dermatologist had to offer, and then went to People’s Pharmacy web site in total desperation and read about the hot water treatment. I couldn’t believe it. At first you think it isn’t working, but then you stop the hot water and realize the itching is gone. I use it on any bite now, and have told everyone I know. It is great!”

Rate this article
star-fullstar-emptystar-fullstar-emptystar-fullstar-emptystar-fullstar-emptystar-fullstar-emptystar-fullstar-emptystar-fullstar-emptystar-fullstar-emptystar-fullstar-emptystar-fullstar-empty
4.1- 53 ratings
About the Author
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.” .
Tired of the ads on our website?

Now you can browse our website completely ad-free for just $5 / month. Stay up to date on breaking health news and support our work without the distraction of advertisements.

Browse our website ad-free
Join over 150,000 Subscribers at The People's Pharmacy

We're empowering you to make wise decisions about your own health, by providing you with essential health information about both medical and alternative treatment options.

Showing
10
comments (55 total)
Comments
Add your comment

Been using this for poison ivy for 20 years or so with water as hot as I can stand it. And yes, it itches intensely for a couple of minutes, but it is like scratching without the nail irritation. Then it stops for hours. Just recently found it works even better for black fly bites. And no one else I talk to has heard of this remedy–not even my doctor and nurse practitioner friends.

I thought I was the only one to have discovered this! I had atopic dermatitis my whole life but only a couple of months ago I discovered how hot water is amazing for where it itches. I was just wondering what is the scientific explanation of this?

I read about the hot water treatment on another site and figured maybe it would work since cortisone, caladril, aloe vera etc werent dealing with the horrendous poison ivy itch on both forearms and 1 leg. Used a hand shower nozzle and slowly turned up the heat till it was really at my limits (really hot).

Wow, did it work like a charm! Itchiness gone for almost 10 hours till it returned. Tried it again and bam it worked again. Amazing, wish my doctor had told me about this 1.5 weeks ago. I was suffering and trying not to scratch…impossible. This trick is amazing.

Better than any cream or lotion. Cheaper too. I highly suggest u try it, but don’t get it to hot and burn yourself. Works because your nerve receptors for pressure, pain and itchiness are one and the same and if you overload one with high heat, it shuts the others down till your nerves reset (for lack of better term).

I did this 50 some years ago when I got poison ivy….I use scalding water for as long as i can stand it….then afterwards put ice on it…..works for several hours

My Mom related this trick 62 yrs. ago, as a 10 yr. old…just used it today on 2 nasty bites….ahhhhhh!

Oh my gosh, I thought I was the only one who knew about this, so I thought to myself let me google to see if I’m just weird ,lol or other people have tried it as well. I got the rash on the front top part of my right hand and it itches like hell, can’t seem to get much relief until I discovered the scalding hot water thing, it gives this awesome orgasmic feeling while relieving the itch, it just feels so good.

I got bit on my and so I put it under hot water. It helped for a second but now the bump is higher and it hurts

Absolutely! I was wondering if anybody else out there knew about this trick. My friends all think I am crazy when I tell them about the effectiveness of hot water. I discovered this 20 years ago when I decided to use it on a rash to see if that could relieve the urge to scratch, and was shocked to see how effective it is. Since then, I have been using it on mosquito bites primarily, and the bite goes away in minutes!

It is as if the saliva and any viruses contained therein are dissolved. The irritation goes away immediately. My wife, who is quite skeptical of this treatment, put some lavender oil on one of my mosquito bites one time. The irritation did not go away. I insisted on using the hot water treatment, and no sooner had I applied the hot water and the bite was gone! The next day, she got bitten by a mosquito and put lavender oil on it, and it was still irritated after at least 10 minutes.

Maybe my difference is I’m sumerging the bites when I take a bath in hot water, but reguardless, it doesn’t work for me. I find at bathtime, I find out WHERE the bites are all over by body because the warm water makes them itch like crazy.

Yup it’s true! I discovered running hot water on insect bites purely accidental, by taking a hot shower. It’s all I use on bug bites lasts about 3 hrs., the whole
process about 2-3 days, no more itch. Yeah!!!! ? Run hot water as hot as you can stand for about 5 seconds, and repeat every 3 hrs or so.

That’s it working. The warm water is hot enough that it makes your bites itch intensely so you notice them. If you were in a shower you would be able to turn the heat up even more and apply hotter water to the bites, and that would feel even better and take only seconds to get rid of the itch and give you some relief.

Yep, me too. Doesn’t work and makes them itch worse!

* Be nice, and don't over share. View comment policy^