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.

  • Gardening Girl

    I recently got 10 ground nesting wasp bites and know from chigger bites about the heat. I would take a very hot shower and take down the portable shower head and apply the hot water directly on the bites locations.. The intense feeling (histamine breaking down?) on the area felt like a good long scratch, very satisfying then the itch would go away for quite some time. – Lasted longer for the chigger bites than the wasp ones but is the only thing that works. The over the counter creams, gels and sticks did nothing.

  • Gini

    Sir i love you!!!! Words cannot express my gratitude. Im horribly horrificly alergic to mosquito bites and poured really hot water on my toes yes those mother effers bit me on my TOES!!!! I was about to go insane its 1 am and i have to be up at 6 and now i can rest afrr reading this. You are my hero!!!!!!

  • Michelle McFadden Elenz

    ben gay or icy hot seems to be effective for the longest. anything with a high percentage of menthol for the active ingredient. peppermint oil works, not as good. and an ice pack.

  • Cindy

    Thank YOU!! I stepped on a pile of tiny black ants in Cullman AL 6 days ago… I tried everything for relief..nothing worked. Blow drying the bites with heat, worked. I ended up repeating the process a few hours later as I was slightly itchy, but again, instant relief once again!

  • H.Swann

    Thanks for this explanation, Larry! Good to know, clever you.

  • Pointsof Light

    Thanks bunches for the tip. I tried your hair dryer technique on a few crazy bites. It works great. But it got me wondering what would happen if I used my small hand held ultra sound unit of the same bites. Worked like a charm. I just applied the gel and rubbed the areas for a minute and a half. My itching is gone. Even the places where I had scratched so hard it was red and puffy.

  • Ed

    I got several fire ant bites yesterday, on my upper right arm near my armpit. Had an area almost 6 inches long by 3 inches wide turn red with the bite marks outlining the area. Horrible itching, rough night and still bad today. Tried OTC sprays but got only short term relief. I just read this and immediately fired up the blow dryer. First attempt I don’t think I held the heat there long enough, got only a little relief. 2nd attempt I went for first degree burns!! Bottom line – IT WORKED. As I type this I have no itching. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

  • Sus

    Worked like a charm!!!!!

  • Mike Naylor

    Thanks for this itch relief tip! I was at my wits end last night with a severely itchy bee sting on my arm. I tried just about everything. I found your post last night as i was in bed…knowing i would not get a good rest unless the itching stops. I typed in “Itchy skin mind over matter”…thinking i could utilize my dormant Jedi mind skills on myself. But instead, i found your post and gave it a shot. I couldn’t use a blow dryer because i didn’t want to wake up my fiance. So, i tried hot water. I endured it as hot as possible for about 1 minute. ….then WHADAYA KNOW!!?? No itchy arm! Thanks dude….

  • Jennifer

    I literally had 100 biting ants on my foot and it itched like crazy!! I wanted to cut my foot off and I could not find relief. I tried the hair dryer and for the first time in 36 hours, there is relief. THANK YOU!!!!

  • ♓elina

    BLESS YOU, SIR! This gave me more relief than anything the doctor’s given me. I’ve had an allergic reaction to conenose bug bites (“kissing bugs”) and have been absolutely miserable for over a week (recovered from the first bite in a week, was newly bitten a couple days ago). I know you’ve got to be careful what you read and do without doctors instructions, but I followed your instructions and also gave larger spots a little more time (about a minute)… all I can say is it’s been a godsend finding this article!

  • Marilyn

    OMG…I have bruises from scratching PRIOR to finding this! I can’t believe anything so simple could work. First night I got sleep since I started this garden project…the spiders and mosquitos loved biting me. Big appreciative THanks!!

  • Brandy Engle

    Thank You. Thank You! Thank You!! Soaked my foot in hot water, and finally got some sleep! I was in tears because my fire ant bites were itching so bad. Found your suggestion online at 4am. I am on vacation at a hotel, so I took the bathroom trashcan, filled it with hot water (didn’t want to wake hubby with the blow dryer) and soaked foot for 20 mins or so. Just woke up and still zero itching! Going to do it again before we head out for fun today so they won’t bother me. Thank you for saving my vacation!!

  • Traceyyyy

    Worked for me ! :)

  • Dan

    My arm was in pain from about 8 ant bites, really acting up when I woke this morning (got bitten two days ago) and came across this piece of advice, gave it a shot, no more pain or itchiness, you’re a bloody lifesaver mate!

  • Cynthia D’Alba

    Worked on my ant stings! Had my doubts but wow

  • SpinSugar

    Also you can use pure ammonia. I’ve tried it. Use a clean paper towel, fold it in 4s. Pour ammonia on the paper towel. Then press the spider, mosquito any other bite it will pull all the poison out. You will see a large bump from the bite, just under the skin and usually a small tiny hole where the bite took place. After you compress for 5 minutes the venom and poison will be gone. Guaranteed!

  • Pauley

    Just got back from Florida 2 days ago with 12 noseeum bites with welts the size of nickels. Tried all the anti itch stuff with weak results. I tried your method as what do I have to loose. Well it does work and fast. Thank you thank you thank you!!!

  • gon leyton

    I just got a nasty bug bite, the itching’s been driving me crazy, applied your heat treatment, 90% relieved, tks.

  • Beckyboo

    Got bitten on the toe by a jumping ant working in the garden (me…not it :). Just tried this and so far seems to have worked! This is great because it kept me awake most of the night and when I did sleep I had very weird dreams involving my feet.

  • David Israel

    Thanks it worked, took a spread knife placed it in boiling water then placed it over my ant bites till I felt the burn. Now I can go back to sleep, the itch is gone. So simple.

  • Theuns Dirkse Van Schalkwyk

    Did not have the dryer at work – two little spider bites just below my ribs were iching…

    Used warm water – do NOT use hot or recently boiled water!!!

    You should test the heat with a finger – you should be able to keep it in without burning for about 2-3 seconds. In my case I used just more than half just boiled and the rest cold water from the tap. About 55-60 C I guess.

    I just used a little wad of tissue paper – dip and apply for three seconds repeat as long as required.

    Afterwards my skin is red and sensitive (have a light burn feeling to it) but not painfull, no itching.

  • Mandy Mll20

    Works for bud bug bites too!!! Thank you so much!!

  • Itchy and Scratchy

    We just returned from Huatulco Mexico and as usual when we travel anywhere tropical the bugs love me. I have tons of bits some are huge and extremely itchy. I took an antihistamine this morning and have been putting ointment on them all day and no relief. Tonight I was going crazy itching so I decided to google a treatment and found this post. I put my hair dyer on high and away I went, I took as much heat as I could tolerate. It really works, I am not itchy at all it’s like a miracle. What a simple and none invasive solution. I’m all about the natural solutions. Thank you so much for the post and everyone for their stories.

  • babybunting

    This really actually works! Was just about ready to gouge a hole in my leg the itching was so bad, but this really works! It really really itches about 20 seconds in to the heart treatment but after that- gone! Amazing! THANK YOU!!!!

  • Suzi

    I cut my front yard yesterday and it’s about an acre of land with my push mower and it took me a half a day and when I came inside I noticed I had about 5 major itchy knots on my forearms and leg of possibly a sweat bee and I applied this method and as I’m typing, I’M NOT ITCHING!!! I’d much rather burn a little compared to itching A LOT!!! Thank You!!!

  • Steph

    It really worked. Thank God. I just moved to the south and I have not been bitten so much in my life.

  • me

    Best relief ever thank you so much my back was itching so bad from ant bites very uncomfortable and I was going crazy nothing worked but the blow dryer

  • Angela Hamilton

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! It’s 3.30am and having been woken by the itching from my bites I turned to the internet in desperation and decided to try this (better than the alternative – a sleepless night) and it works!!!! Yes!! Have been applying hydrocortisone cream, using the clicker electrical pulse thingy and taken antihistamine all to no avail. Amazing – thanks again.

  • SharonK

    I am covered in midgie bites that were painfully itchy so I tried the hair dryer and it worked. There are a few trouble spots that need more treatment but as soon as I apply the heat the itching stops. Can’t thank you enough!!!