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Rediscovering How Hot Water for Itches Works for Hours

What do you do for mosquito bites or poison ivy? Ever heard of hot water for itches? It's an old home remedy and it goes back to at least the 1960s. We have an explanation for how it works.

We love it when people discover a home remedy on their own. It’s doubly sweet when renowned experts support the treatment. It’s triply sweet when we have an explanation for why hot water for itches is so effective. Here is a story from a reader that captured our attention.

Q. When I was a kid in Minnesota, mosquitoes and poison ivy were always troublesome in the summer. For any itch from bug or plant, I have found running hot but not burning water on the affected area does the trick. A few minutes will desensitize the skin for hours of relief.

A. If the water is hot enough, between 120 and 130 degrees F, just a few seconds of exposure should take away the itch for hours. We found this gem of a home remedy decades ago in a dermatology textbook, Dermatology: Diagnosis and Treatment (1961). The dermatologists who wrote about this suggested that heat “short circuits” the itch reflex.

TRP Channels Could Explain Hot Water for Itches:

Transient receptor potential (TRP) channels are important for sensing itch (Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology, 2015). Because the TRP channels involved (TRPV1 and TRPV4) are also important in sensing heat, hot water does indeed work through a type of short circuit (Temperature, May 26, 2015).
Anyone using this remedy must be careful not to burn the skin. A couple of seconds is all you need.

More Stories About Hot Water for Itches:

Denise the gardener agrees that hot water for itches works best:

“As a gardener, I am frequently bitten by various. One of these is an unidentified critter (not a mosquito). A 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 – completely alleviates the itch for at least 8-10 hours. As a bonus, it feels really good – even better than scratching.”

Ron in Ohio has been using this remedy for many decades:

“My Mom related this trick 62 years ago. I used it when I was 10. I just used it today on two nasty bites….ahhhhhh!”

Hopeee in Nevada was surprised to see others reporting success with hot water for itches:

“Oh my gosh, I thought I was the only one who knew about this. I thought to myself, let me Google to see if I’m just weird. Now I am laughing out loud to discover that other people have tried it as well.

“I got the rash on the top part of my right hand. It itches like hell. I couldn’t get much relief until I discovered the hot water thing. It gives this awesome feeling while relieving the itch. It just feels so good.”

Daniel D. in Round Rock, Texas thought he was the only one who knew about this:

“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. I and was shocked to discover how effective it is. Since then, I have been using it on mosquito bites primarily, and the itch goes away in minutes!

“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 than the itch 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.”

What do you do for mosquito bites? Let us know if hot water for itches has worked and how you learned about it.

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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.”.
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