A Miraculous Cure for Bug Bite Itching? This Remedy Really Works!

A Miraculous Cure for Bug Bite Itching? This Remedy Really Works! May 28, 2011

For the past several years, I have put up a version of this post. The response from people has been quite enthusiastic. So, given that we’re entering the buggy summer months, I thought it would be good to redo and repost this information.

First of all, though, let me be clear that I am not a doctor. (Well, okay, I have a Ph.D. But I’m not a medical doctor.) One should never take my medical advice too seriously.

Second, let me add that I’m generally very suspicious of “home remedies” for bodily ills, especially when they’re found on the Internet. There is no end to the nonsense out there. But, I found on the Internet what I’m beginning to think is a miraculous cure for bug bite itching. (Okay, okay. It’s not miraculous in the strict sense. Just surprising and wonderful.)

A little background: I am quite allergic to bug bits and stings. I have to be especially careful with bee and wasp stings, to which my body overreacts big time. But minor bites, like from mosquitoes, often lead to an unusually strong response. Where most folks get little bumps that itch for a few hours, I can get large welts that itch terribly for days. It’s much worse with spider bites and the like.

The bad news for me is that I now live in Texas, in the country, no less. My move to the outskirts of Boerne must have brought cheers to the insect kingdom, because bugs love to bite me, and there are tons of them where we live. We’ve got the usual bees and wasps, plus mosquitoes, biting ants, fire ants, chiggers, spiders, noseeums, etc. etc. The mosquitoes haven’t been too bad, actually. But I’ve had my share of chigger and ant bites, mostly because I haven’t been careful.

This is a small fire ant mound. If you see something like this in your yard or the local park, avoid it! Photo from gurdonark on Flickr.

A couple of years ago, in my lack of caution, I manged to get about a dozen fire ant stings on my legs. If you know something about fire ants, you know that I rather lucked out by getting a dozen rather than a couple hundred. Fire ant stings hurt right way, but soon the pain disappears. A couple of days later, the stings start itching . . . terribly. They itch worse than any other kind of bite I’ve been privileged to receive.

In my itching agony, I couldn’t sleep. I’d been using the typical treatments – hydrocortisone cream, Benadryl cream, aloe, etc. – with modest success. But I wondered if I could find something better. So I decided to check out the Internet, the source of all wisdom. (Not!) As I surfed around, I started running into lots of people who found heat to be helpful in reliving itches. Here are some examples: Poison Ivy; People’s Pharmacy; Home Remedies.

This is ironic, of course, because heat often causes itches (heat rash, etc.) or can make them worse. But many people testified that applying significant heat to an itch for a short amount of time made the itch disappear for several hours, maybe even longer. I was skeptical, but figured it would be worth a try. After all, what did I have to lose?

Some of the proponents of heat therapy for itches recommend using very hot water, not so hot as to burn the skin, but just a little cooler than this. Others swear by hair dryers. They recommending pointing a hair dryer at an itchy spot for several seconds or minutes. The skin should become uncomfortably hot, but not anywhere near being burned. After this heating of the skin happens, the itch is supposed to go away.

I got out my wife’s hair dryer and followed the instructions I had found online. I heated up one of my worst bites for about 45 seconds. My skin felt hot and began to hurt just a bit. But I was careful not to burn myself. When it seemed like I had done enough, I removed the hair dryer and waited to see what would happen. In a few more seconds, it seemed like the itch had completely disappeared. But I thought I might be doing a mind over matter trick, so I decided to treat my other bites and see what happened. In about eight minutes, I had heated up all of my bites. And it felt as if I had no more itching, just some residual warmth. About ten minutes later the feeling of warmth had vanished and so had my itching. Completely. I felt amazing relief. And it continued for probably six hours. Then I did a second treatment, and that was pretty much the end of itching. The bites were still there as nasty little welts. But I had no discomfort.

Since that first experiment, I’ve treated many more bites with the same results. It’s worked with mosquito bites, wasp stings, and spider bites. (So far I’ve managed to avoid scorpions!) I’m quite sure I’m not fooling myself with wishful thinking. Heating up a bite and the area right around it with a hair dryer really does seem to take away the itch. (Added note in 2013 – Some bites require maybe four or five heat treatments, spread over two or three days, before their itch is completely gone. Others need only one treatment.)

I’m sharing my findings with you because it’s summertime and the bugs are hungry. If you try the blow-drying method and it brings relief, then I’m glad. I do realize there’s some risk in putting this up online. If you do something stupid and burn yourself with your hair dryer or get electrocuted, you or your heirs will probably want to sue me. So let me say, once again, that I am not a medical doctor. I don’t know if there are any long-term disadvantages to this method of itch relief.

Whatever you do, don’t burn yourself. Be sure to read and follow all the warnings that come with your hair dryer. Don’t do what I’m recommending while sitting in a bathtub. Don’t do it in a rainstorm. Don’t do it while standing up high on an aluminum ladder. Don’t do it while driving in a car or talking on a cell phone. Don’t do it while filling your car with gasoline. Don’t do it while using mind-altering prescription drugs. Etc. etc. etc. Fill in your own legal boilerplate.

If you try this and it works for you, please add a comment to this post. If you try it and it doesn’t work, ditto. And if you have some other sure fire method itch relief, let us know. Good luck!

P.S. Lesley adds a comment below that I will put here as a word of caution: “Please don’t try this on poison ivy. I learned the hard way that it will increase the circulation of the toxin in your system and spread the rash.” Thanks, Lesley.

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  • Sharon E. Klein DeSilva

    Poison Ivy does not spread that way. If your rash spread its because the oils were still on your skin, clothes ,garden tools ,shoes or something that had also come in contact with the oils. These oils can stay potent for years. Scratching or popping second degree blisters (sumac poison), heat and or water does not spread the rash. Wash your skin and items with Tecnu.. It really works for poisonous plants that cause rashes from the plant oil. “That doesn’t mean it’s ok to pop the blisters because it’s not !!!!! That can cause infection, so try not to!!!!!!! I forgot to mention pets can also have come in contact with the plants and have the oils on their fur. Petting them
    with put the oils on your hands again and well…..you know the rest.

  • Dory Conley

    I had my first experience with fire ants and found your hair dryer remedy. The itching was driving me nuts so I figured why not. Low and behold it worked! So glad you posted this, thank you!!!!

  • R.k

    Yur a life saver!!!! I never get bitten, but recently I have been covered with bites. You are a life saver I had trouble sleeping and I tried the hair dryer treatment and it worked!!!!! Thank you 🙂

  • Uwe

    Dear Mark, thank you for sharing this way of heat treatment of insect stings and bites. I am collecting those methodes in my German language website http://insektenstichebehandeln.de I will add this to others like the hot spoon, hot cup, hot potatoe and the electronic sting healer. All of them are highly effective and it just depends on what material is just at hand. I didnt think about the hair dryer before. Thank you again.

  • Bobby

    hahahaha just did the hair dryer trick – yup it worked!!