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

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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  • CSS

    It’s 3 am – and I had tried just about everything to stop the itch from my 15 mosquito bites. Soaking in Epson salt. Benadryl. More Benadryl. Oatmeal bath. Witch hazel. Alcohol. Hydrocortisone cream. Spray Waldryl. Stop itch pen. And, of course, scratching. No relief. Felt like a stooge trying the hairdryer thing – but my alternative was getting dressed and going to Walgreens. While it”s not the most comfortable thing – it worked immediately. Going to sleep now. THANK you!

  • kate in Canada

    I have just tried the hairdryer it works ❤❤ I was bitten by a spider 2 months ago tried everything known to man except this . I am so grateful Thank u so much.

  • gr82do

    Best thing for itch is cortisone cream.

  • Tony Bearden

    I got fire ants in my socks and got an out 20 bites on each ankle. I was in absolute misery. I
    all the treatments, benadryl (oral and topical), baking soda paste, olive oil, vinegar, etc. I stumbled on this blog and tried soaking both ankles in mildly hot water. It really worked well, just as advertised. Thanks so much.

  • Sheri

    I just tried the hair dryer on my bites. In the past 12 hours I tried peppermint oil, clove oil, aloe vera gel, burn cream with lidocaine and bandaids. I saw all the testimonies here and decided to try the hair dryer. It worked! Even if it’s a placebo effect, I’m still happy! I might have to do a couple of my bites again, but they aren’t maddening like they were just an hour ago!

    Like you, I am mosquitos’ favorite food and I am allergic to their bites. When I’m taking my B vitamins, the Mosquitos don’t eat me. I also need to find the mosquito that’s hiding in my house.

    Thank you for sharing! Your story and the comments convinced me to try!

    Happy, happy me!

  • Sarah

    Brilliant! Thank you, Mark, you are truly a blessing!

  • Luba

    Dear Mark, you do not know how I thankful to you! I have very strong allergic reaction on all insect bites. Every time I end up or in emergency or Dr’ office with crazy itching. They treat me with steroids and antihistamines. Yesterday I was itching after some insect bite and planning to take a steroid again but God help me to find your article about heat home remedy. Now is 3:30 AM, I just applied a fan heat to the bite and itching STOPED!
    I will be able to sleep!
    Thank you so much for sharing! I love you!

  • DJohn1

    Concerning Poison Ivy. Technu works.
    We got a swimming pool years ago and I super chlorinated it a lot in rainy summers. I no longer got the Poison Ivy. Swimming Pool Chlorine dissolves the oil.
    I use about 3-6 ounces in a full bathtub and it keeps it from happening.
    I have learned that laundry detergent full strength on the damaged skin also dissolves the oil that causes the itch.
    The sooner after exposure the better. Get it off your skin within about ten or fifteen minutes.
    I would suggest a bath with the chlorine/water mix and then wash the whole thing with a quick shower.
    I have used cat flea spray before on the bug bites. But again I normally wait ten minutes and then wash it off in a shower or bath. It is not recommended that you do anything without a doctor’s help. What works for me might not work for anyone else. Thus the suggestion that you get a doctor’s help if necessary. Know your allergies.
    There is more than one flea out there. Scabbies is also commonly confused with the flea bites and vice versa. The cousin in the flea family that is extremely small is treated the same way. Normally the doctor will prescribe a $75 medicine that incidently is available for horses at $25. The horse medicine is more concentrated.
    Can you say drug company rip off?
    Everyone is not the same. What works for one might not work for another.
    I too am in favor of garlic treatments. But it is not for everyone.
    Food quality Dimetreious Earth is the treatment of choice for floors.
    I recommend a concentrated shop vac to clean it up usually with some kind of crevice tool. Leave it down for about an hour or two.
    Boric Acid powder also works. Might test it on a small corner somewhere before using it.
    None of which works well without getting to the source of the problem.
    Most likely it is dogs or cats needing a treatment.
    Though there are treatments that repel the fleas without drugs at local pet stores.
    I find that if they are caged part of the time then hang a good flea cat collar on the cage helps some.

  • Ruby James (Forever young)

    Hi. I have been itching for weeks due to bed bugs bites and to tell you how I felt after so long it made me cry and unable to sleep. I was willing to try anything because after everything I have used the relief was little and too short. I did the blow dryer effect and the heat sensation was so comforting and relieving that was unbelievable. Thanks so much for sharing this remedy. I am tired but I can’t sleep Because I am enjoying being itch free… I could just hug you now…. Thanks…

  • imanygirl

    I came here because I’ve been in AGONY for 2 days because of 6 miserable spider (?) bites on my one foot. I too have an abnormally exaggerated response to bug bites and the itching and welts are so bad, I have literally sliced bites open with a razor in an effort to rid myself of the misery… to no avail! Bugs also seem to like me more than other people and I measured the welt of a mosquito bite on my leg last year and the welt alone was 2.5 inches. When I was little, my mosquito bites were the same size as my knees. Ugh! It’s such misery- I’d rather have sharp pain that an itch. I am going to try the hairdryer cure because I have nothing left to lose at this point and I am ready to cut my foot off in search of relief. It’s really weird though because every other website claims you should use ICE and COLD to relieve the itch, which I know for a fact doesn’t work. So we shall see.
    Okay, I tried it before I hit “post” and I was about ready to get really annoyed because while I was using the hairdryer, my foot started itching like crazy and I was convinced it was going to keep getting worse, but I stopped and it feels better. The bite on the sole of my foot- right in the soft arch- has not been relieved though. I’ll try again, but it may be because I had scratched it open last night and it may be the skin trying to heal vs the itch associated with the bite. I hope it works.

  • 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!!!!

  • http://insektenstichebehandeln.de 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!!