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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  • Lindsay Barrett

    After being up all night in agony, itching so bad I was just about in tears from little bites covering my feet I figured it couldn’t hurt. AMAZING! It’s only been 10 minutes so far but I would honestly do this treatment every half hour if it meant getting the relief only for another 10 minutes. Thank you soooo much for this post! Ahhhhhhh :)

  • Cyntha

    This works! I got bit on the hand by a spider last night in the garden. It stung badly for hours and today it’s been itching and driving me crazy. The rubbing and scratching only increased the swelling. Anti-itch medication gave little relief. Finally I had a break at work to google “spider bite itch” and I found this article. I immediately went to the kitchen and ran hot water on the bite. The water was as hot as I could stand it and I only ran it for 10 seconds. Finally some relief! It’s been over an hour. I’d repeat this treatment even if it only lasted 10 minutes. The long term effect is a bonus!

  • Doug Starling

    I was clearing brush near my home in Southern California. I was bitten twice by a spider the size of a ’57 Buick on the inside of my elbow. I tried all of the creams for the itching which was intense. I figured that I would just have to grit-it-out until itching went away. After three days, I tried the hair blower thing. The itching is gone as though someone just switched it off. Amazing. Thank you for the suggestion. It actually worked.

  • Penny

    I stepped in a fire ant bed a few days ago. I have been itching like crazy. After reading about the hair dryer, I wondered if a hot rag would work since my hubby was asleep. I ran hot water over a wash cloth and placed it on the bites, it was a bit uncomfortable for a few seconds but then instant relief. Thanks for the heat idea!

  • Karen

    Thank you! It really worked on a large spider bite. I ‘ll finally sleep better without waking up to horrible itching.

  • Lauren

    Worked for me! It’s the middle of the night and I have been up for the past two hours nearly in tears I was so itchy. My husband had to go sleep in the guest bedroom because I was keeping him up with all my flopping around. Thank goodness I found this post. I used hot water since I didn’t want to wake up him with the hair dryer. I am amazed. Thank you!

  • murali

    Thanks a lot for this amazing remedy. I was about to buy a big tube of itchguard cream as my itch due to bug bite has been bothering me for past so many years. My itch was appearing on and off may be due to bugs in my bed or bed sheet. Really this heat therapy worked wonders. Very nice relief.

  • murali

    I want to know if this will also work for psoriasis?

  • laurirottmayer

    This is amazing! Thank you so much. Something bit me on Sunday afternoon and it was mildly itchy. By 2 a.m. it woke me up, it itched so bad. I tried everything, resorting to toothpaste (LOL!) but it still itched and was really red. As soon as I found your article, I blow dried the spot for 45 seconds and *poof!* no more itch. It’s also way less red. I might need to do it again because I touched it by accident when I was putting on my sock and the itch is still sort of there but this is awesome. Thank you, again! :-)

  • mikemath26

    I wouldn’t have believed it, but I was desperate; i decided to give it a try. To my surprise, IT WORKED LIKE A CHARM!!! I heated the bites, stopping so that I didn’t get burned but making sure they received sufficient heat. The heat/stinging lasted about 10 seconds, and that was it – no more itching! I shared this with my dermatologist, and wish I had known this 20 years ago!

  • Melissa

    This is amazing! I’ve been itching a spider bite on my ankle like crazy for the past 3 days and I needed some relief. This worked! Thank you! :)

  • Tibor N Michelle Pinci

    Aaaah, it worked. It has been a week since those annoying ‘midgees’ (little mosquitoes in Australian coastal waterways) bit me and they have been itchy as anything and obvious inflammatory response. Thankyou..thankyou. Such a relief. I will keep this tip in my first aid list :) Taa from downunder.