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.

  • TomBk

    Doc,

    I’m glad you found some relief.  I know how much you love the outdoors.

    Tom

  • Evan

    Mark,

    As you have learned, it is easy to move something on the ground, only to find that fire ants have mounded up underneath it and you now have a swarm on you.

    Please reference all the usual caveats, disclaimers and warnings you laid out while I offer the best, most instantaneous relief for fire ant bites I have ever encountered.

    Meat tenderizer.

    Apparently there is something in meat tenderizer that instantly neutralizes fire ant venom.

    I run inside, wet the bite with water and rub in a bit of meat tenderizer for a second or two. As an extra added benefit, it also has usually prevented swelling, infection and other bad side effects. I have sometimes had to sprinkle an arm or a leg with it due to multiple bites but the relief has still been immediate.

    In your case, your allergies would have to be considered, but this has worked for me since I heard of it around 18 years ago.

    If we could only work it out to where grackles ate fire ants or vice versa or both. *sigh*

  • Deany

    It’s not miraculous but scientific due to the interaction of heat with certain venom that are Thermolabile http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermolabile
    A hair dryer is fine if your at home near an electrical outlet but for immediate heat relief anywhere there is a product called Therapik that works on this same heat principal. Works great and I have been using it for years.
    You can take it anywhere because it runs on a 9V battery and it is also FDA approved. Therapik can be found at http://www.Therapik.com

  • Pingback: Rosa Baida

  • Pingback: Selsa Echeve

  • Pingback: Franny Wood

  • Pingback: The Hakka Man

  • Pingback: Lisa Small

  • Bolitarwinn

    I’ve used a Therapik as well and absolutely love it
    Beatrice

  • Anonymous

    Hey, thanks. I didn’t know about that. 

  • Anonymous

    Okay. I need to check out this thing. Sounds perfect. 

  • cyndy

     I want to share a couple of my findings. I have never been one to be bitten by mosquitoes, but my husband would get eaten up. I told him to start taking B-12 daily as I do, and now he is no longer a buffet for bugs. Not sure why it works.
    Two years ago I had my first reaction to posion ivy/oak.  For two weeks I tried everything I could find to stop the itching and speading and it continue to get worse. Then it came to me that durning the summer while swimming, the chlorine in the pool dries my skin out. I filled the tub with warm water, added liquid chlorine and soaked for 45 mins.  I had the posion ivy all over my body. After 3 days of soaking once a day, it was gone. 

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the input. I’ve heard about B-12 working for people. It doesn’t seem to work for me, I’m sad to say.

  • http://www.homeremediesfinder.com/remedy/itching.html itching remedies

    Itching pain is most terrible to tolerate. However, for bug biting or any other itching there is only need to use some natural itching remedies. If anyone is facing the problem of itching  then homeremediesfinder suggest to use aloe vera  on affected area.

  • Katie Apker

    Amen! The blow dryer works a charm for poison oak rashes too! I thought I would go crazy from the itch (even with extensive Benadryl, calamine, and baking soda treatments). Then I tried using a blow dryer to heat up the rashes and I finally could get through the day without itching myself to death, and could get through the night and get some sleep!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for your comment. It is rather amazing, isn’t it?

  • Dunitatdawn

    I have a spider bite that has been itching for days. Finally tried this and can’t believe it, but the itching is gone. Unbelievable. Thanks soooo much!

  • Anonymous

    Yes. It is rather unbelievable. Spider bites itch like mad!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1458228008 Jennifer Sweeney

    Works for me!

  • markdroberts

    Yay!

  • Brandie

    I am so glad I found this post.  I got bit by an ant for the first time the other.  The itching was so bad it kept me up almost all night.  I have been using hyrocortizone cream with little success.  Even tried bikini zone hoping to numb it lol.  Using the blow dryer was almost instant relief.  Not sure how long it will last yet, but relief for any amout of time is good relief!!  Again thank you so much for posting this!

  • Ruby

    Bless you! I’m going to try this when I get home. Got a spider bite yesterday and today it’s itching like mad. This makes sense to me as I just discovered the blow dryer method for migraines I get centered around my eyes–just blow it directly on my face (using the nozzle that comes with the blow dryer directs the heat well). Extremely hot, but not burning is the trick.

  • Jenny

    I just tried it :D wow so far so good! thank you so much for this tip. I had try many creams for this itch on my leg. I don’t know what bit me (insect). It works. thanks again!

  • Kasia2001

    Amazingly, it worked for me; I used the hairdryer about 4 hours ago, no itch since….thank you

  • Lesley Achitoff

    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. Just saying….

  • markdroberts

    Thanks, Lesley, for this comment. I’m adding it as a P.S. to the series.

  • Creighton

    Does it have to be a hairdryer (dry heat?) or can it be a hot, wet towel?

  • CDebego

    This does work! I found this out by accident once. I am also
    very allergic to “bug bites” Spider bites are the worst. I am also
    allergic to some metals containing nickel and even the Formaldehyde used in
    treating leather. This shows up when I wear a watch with a leather band and is
    especially bad if it has a buckle that contains nickel. One day I had an
    especially itchy rash from my leather watch band. I was getting ready one
    morning and I was drying my hair. For some reason I decided to direct the heat
    from my hairdryer on the wrist with the very itchy rash. Sure enough it felt
    better for the rest of the day. I did this every morning until the rash went
    away. About three days. I don’t know why, but it does seem to work. :)

  • Lynn

    I recently had a Nairobi eye burn – kind of like poison ivy – caused when the insect lays down a trail of base (opposite of acid) on your skin.  You don’t know it was there until a few days later when you start itching.  If you scratch and then scratch someplace else you can spread it.  Anyway, I found a relief from the extreme itching on the internet.  If you put toothpaste – the chalky kind not the gel kind – on it, the heat from the toothpaste will relieve the itch.  If it comes back wet the toothpaste again or reapply.  It also helps to dry up the rash.  It might work for other insect bites or even poison ivy.

  • markdroberts

    I have heard comments from people who say a hot, wet towel works. I have not tried it.

  • Jenni Acklam

    Any one taking a vacation on the West Coast of Scotland this year (2012) bring a hairdryer then ,’cos the midges are here in their hoardes!  The worst I’ve known for some years.

  • Berrybranch08

    I don’t know why or how this works but WOW! Just wish I’d read this two days ago. Thanks.

  • Dokchampa4153

    Wow, it worked for my insect bite too! Thanks! I was itching so bad that I wanted to cut my finger off lol. I was so desperate and came online and saw your artcle!

  • Evelyn

    My bug bites get so inflamed that they swell up and develop pus.  At that point, nothing helps but a good dose of antihistamine and super duper cortisone cream that you can only get with a Dr.’s Rx.  But if it just itches, this is a great way to treat the irritation.  I find if I apply the cortisone cream immediately, the bite will stay small and heal up.  If I wait, it’s bad news for me.

  • Nancyfirestone

    Thank you soooo much! Drove from California to Alaska & while in Yukon, just long enough to take some photos, I became a meal for some voracious Mosquitos! I’ve been using ice which provided temporary relief but not for very long. Came across your post, just tried it and the itching is gone. Not sure how long it will last but I’m thrilled with the results so far!

  • Cassiemcclendon

    Thank you so much. I was in my yard last night and apparently the mosquitos feasted on me. I couldn’t sleep last night for itching like crazy. Woke up with huge welps, the size of my hands around the areas. Tried hydrocortisone cream and vinegar with no relief, so surfed the internet and came across this. Just did it, 5 mins of no itching so far!!! Hope it continues:)

  • Beachgirl200621

    I got eaten up by mosquitoes two nights ago on my mother in laws porch I’m desperate to stop itching blowdryer is amazing! Minus the bites on my back I can’t reach :( thanks for the tip! Needless to say my husband has a date with my blowdryer when he gets home!!!

  • Bluemoon

    Incredible! Itch relief in just seconds! Yesterday evening I was suffering from a maddeningly itchy spider bite. Used the hair dryer…it’s now the next morning and I’m still not scratching. Bless you Mark! Hope you will be less “suspicious of home remedies” in the future. I’m exactly the opposite…suspicious of what BIG PHARMA wants me to do!

  • Redskinsflorez

    Got some bad bites watching fireworks on july 1st. It has been almost a week and my multiple bites itch immensely still. From my scratching them so often they are starting to look like massive scars. Nonetheless they are still itching. I just read your post about the hair dryer and have to say it worked great. Though at first sign of heat on said bites they became even more itchy but as soon as the heat subsided so did the need to scratch. Thank you so much!

  • Alicia1 Jones

    I found out the heat remedy by accident. I have some type of bite of my elbow that itched very badly. As it has been hotter than….well you know. The interior of my truck has been so hot. But you have to drive. I noticed that when I had gotten out of the truck and where the interior has come in contact with my arm, the itching had stopped.

  • http://www.facebook.com/foxlarryg Larry Fox

    I had a couple on chigger bites on my foot this morning that were driving me crazy, so I grabbed my wife’s blow dryer and tried this out just for laughs.  Two hours later and no itching.  For an explanation of why this works, I found this information:  “Heat releases the histamine in the cells, so as you apply the heat, it’ll actually start to itch more. But once all the histamines are released, the pain receptors take over and you’ll be left with a minor sensation of pain. Our bodies are naturally equipped to deal with pain, so the heat on the bite will be more bearable than that annoying itch” – http://www.thaimedicalnews.com/relieve-mosquito-bites-scotch-tape-nail-polish-heat-bite-remedy/2010/07/01/

  • Mumford

    Yes, this works! As well, if you are not near a hair dryer, just putting hot water in a cup and holding it against the bite will do the same thing. If you want to get really fancy, Lee Valley Tools used to (still available??) have a device called a ‘Therapik’ with batteries in it that would have a heated tip when turned on and you would place it on the bite.

  • D.A. Schunk

    Was having a great vacation in Florida when BAM! Over the course of about 24 hours I had 40+ big bites (primarily spider, but also mosquito). I tried all the usual over the counter stuff and was miserable. After my 16 hour car ride home in misery my mom came across this… pain free since! that was about 9 hours ago! Thanks for posting!

  • G8isgr8

    Never even saw the beast/incect that got me!
    I was stung? bitten? bottom of foot ,by something in the shoreline water of newport beach 3 days ago.  Hurt like hell when it happened but faded away on ly to come back in itching frenzies many times a day.Tried this and it aoppears to help a bit will wait and seeThanks for help!

  • Lorapacheco

    Had several red ant bites and thru were diving me crazy! I tried the hair dryer and to my surprise it worked! Magic, thanks!

  • Oma

    thank you, thank you.

    I am very allergic to bites and was finally able to get some sleep.  have had to re-heat a couple of times during the day, but that I can handle.

  • Jillradel

    I read this and laughed. My bug bite was itching like crazy!! I thought ‘I have nothing to lose, and I DO have a hair dryer!’ I tried it, smiling to myself…UNBELIEVABLY AMAZING!! IT WORKED. I was able to sleep that night. The following morning it itched a bit, but not enough to dry again. WOW!!!

  • PerkyBarb

    Used a bed buddy microwave heat pack instead of the blow dryer and it did the trick!

  • Christina

    What a life saver!  Thank you so much!  I was buying all sorts of ointments for the past 3 days and this worked like magic.

  • Ahimsa Family Care

    The rash experienced after contact with poison ivy is only spread through CONTACT with the sap. It will not be spread through your bloodstream, as it is limited to the surface. Blowing hot air will not cause it to spread. That bein said, if there is residual sap on clothing, linen, pets, etc. it is indeed possible to re-expose yourself and develop additional rashes. Also, sometimes thicker parts of skin take longer to develop the rash, which makes it appear that the rash is spreading when it actually isn’t. I’m a nurse practitioner and someone highly allergic to poison ivy.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X