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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  • Chris

    Wow I just tried it on my arm. It actually worked! The constant itch is gone! I think I had a bug bite by my wrist and it started to climb up to near my elbow because I kept scratching it. I thought that it would eventually spread through my whole body I i kept scratching. But after using the blow dryer technique, the itch is gone and therefore the scratching will stop. Thank you Mark. You save me a $10 doctor copay : )

  • Guest

    Mark, I’m almost 40 years old and have suffered with insect bites my whole life. When I was younger I got bitten up so bad and subsequently scratched myself so much that I would never wear shorts because my legs were covered in scars and scabs from the bites and itching. I’m one of those people that get torn up by insects specifically mosquitoes. And to make matters worse I live near Houston! Anyway, I stumbled across your article and just gave it a try on my 9 mosquito bites and I am overjoyed. No understatement! Thank you so much. This totally worked and I can’t believe it. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!

  • Amy P.

    Mark, I’m almost 40 years old and have suffered with insect bites my whole life. When I was younger I got bitten up so bad and subsequently scratched myself so much that I would never wear shorts because my legs were covered in scars and scabs from the bites and itching. I’m one of those people that get torn up by insects specifically mosquitoes. And to make matters worse I live near Houston! Anyway, I stumbled across your article and just gave it a try on my 9 mosquito bites that I got even with OFF sprayed on myself and am overjoyed. No understatement! Thank you so much. This totally worked and I almost can’t believe it. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!

  • Julie Flanigan

    I love that you made my unbearable night a peaceful one
    Thank you so much

  • DavidIanWarren

    I picked up a ton of no see um bites in Florida and found this info. It worked great! Thanks

  • iabrownie

    No hair dryer so got a washcloth very hot with water and placed it over the bite and itch gone–at least for the moment. Quite a relief!!

  • Tonya Strang

    If I could hug you I would! I came to visit family in the country and got eaten alive by something. I have been using creams, oral Benadryl, etc with just mild relief. I haven’t slept more than a few hours a night for a week. So read this and ran to the hairdryer. IT WORKS! I was losingy mind and now I just feel blissful relief. THANK YOU

  • Melissa B

    Thank you! I was tossing and turning with unbearable itchiness from black fly bites when I found this, I got out of bed at 4am and tried it, instant relief! I was able to sleep comfortably after. Thank you so much!

  • LaRita D.

    Wow, it worked. Spider ate me up.

  • Wendy Offill

    Thank you so much. This really works. I have used the hair dryer on bites many times and it has never failed to stop the itching. A life saver! I have saved this tip with many others.

  • Jules Anderson

    I stood on a wasp and was stung on my foot and after a sleepless night of scratching and an irritable day I was thoroughly fed up. Driving the car created a vibration that was at just the wrong frequency and amplified the itch to excruciating levels and soaking it in cold water brought only temporary relief (after I had left the car!) reading Mark’s solution was agony as he seemed to take forever before he got to the point. I put my foot in water as hot as I could bear and within minutes the itch was gone. Sweet relief.

  • Kate Powell

    Holy smokes this WORKED! not exaggerating here you SAVED me from loosing my shit! I had almost 200 bites on each leg plus about 100 on my arms. they were all itchy and I was starting to get headaches from clenching my jaw because of the discomfort. I tried this and it was Awesome! thank thank thank thank you sharing this!

  • I’m trying this tonight. I am a mosquito magnet. I’ve tried everything to keep them away (even deep woods deet filled repellant to no avail). I’ve got about 20 bites right now that are driving me crazy! Thanks for the tip!

  • Remarkable!!! It totally works!!!! Thank you!

  • You can get the same relief by warming a spoon under hot water and then pressing it against the bug bite until the spoon cools off.

  • Christy

    We use BenGay (which is chemical heat, I guess) on flea bites, fire ant bites, and mosquito bites. Also we have this zapper thing made out of an ignition switch from a grill. A couple small electric shocks to the bite helps too.

  • emmze87

    Thank you!!!!!! I had so many mosquito bites and trying to teach children while wanting to itch today was hell. The relief is amazing now!

  • Stephanie Davis

    It really works!!! Oh thank you so much for sharing this. I tried baking soda and anti itch cream and those did not work for my spider bites. Finally after using the blow dyer IT WORKED! No more itching!

  • Richard

    Unbelievable! I have two ant bites on my ankle that have been driving me crazy for two days. I hard heated them with a hair dryer for about 20 secods and the itching is completly gone! I could hardly believe it. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  • Kim

    Thank you!!!!!!!!!!! It totally works! Finally….. I can go to sleep!!!!!

  • Rose

    So… would a hot compress work too?

  • mjk717

    Mark – Will you marry me?!?!? I’ve been itching the mosquito bites on my arms uncontrollably for the past 2 days, dabbing on hydrocortisone cream every 2 hours, with little to no relief. Read your article, ran into my bedroom & turned on my blow dryer….haven’t itched for the past hour! INSTANT relief! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!! You are a doll!!!!

  • singra63

    Went to an outdoor party last Friday (7/17) and despite repellant, etc. I got eaten up on my feet and legs. I’ve never had bites that itched so intensely. I wanted to dig my skin off. I tried all of the usual measures to no avail. No sleep for several nights because the itching woke me up. Early this morning, around 2 a.m., I found this remedy and I tried it. Of course I thought it was completely hokey, but I was SO desperate. Much to my surprise and COMPLETE joy it worked!!! I will pass it on. Thank you!!!!

  • Jacob Scott

    I never comment on any thread online, ever.. But I have to for this. Back story: about three days ago, some unknown creature bit my thighs and all sorouding areas of my lower body. 57 bites on the left side, 28 bites on the right. The only creature I found was a super tiny tick on my lower stomach.. They became small red inflamed welts that itched incredibly bad! Tried calamine lotion, Benadryl anti-itch gel, you name it, nothing worked! The agony of these bites was so intense I considered going to a health clinic for relief! Then I read this post… Used the hair dryer on every bite I had. At first contact, the itch pain became so intense, I thought I wasn’t going to make it! After about a minute of wafting the hair dryer back and forth, the pain subsided… And by the time I had gone over every last bite, a miracle happened: the itching stopped!!! about 3hrs after the first treatment, I had maybe 3 bites that starting itching again. Treated those with the hair dryer, and it completely stopped the itch! It’s been 4hrs in and for the first time in three days, I have complete relief. I cannot thank you enough for suggesting this technique! It has been a life savor for me!

  • DS

    Wow… O.K. I got bitten a week ago and I was still itching so bad I could not stand it even after constantly using cortisone so I tried this at about 7:00 p.m. last night and it is 6:00 a.m. now. I have not itched since I heated them. Still scared, but very excited if this is actually working and I don’t itch any more today. This is the longest I have gone without itching regardless.

  • Ciera Schultz

    Anyone reading this know that this is VERY VERY TRUE!!! Take it from me -which I learned the hard way.I was going to the tanning bed (which I rarely EVER do but wanted to not get fried when we headed down to Flordia for vaca in 2 months) man did my poison ivy spread like crazy but by this time I had already financially committed by buying the unlimited monthly plan so I kept going….and I even thought to myself (like an idiot) : “Man! I think there might be something in their tanning beds or maybe I am allergic to their cleaner that they use to clean the beds”…needless to say I ended up with the most worst case of poison ivy that I had ever had and on Prednisone (which you have to avoid exposure to the sun-welcome to the sunshine state (FL) stay out of the sun! Lesson learned

  • DD

    First off: do NOT associate a tanning bed with the application of heat. You may feel warm after tanning but all a tanning bed does is give you a dose of UV light.
    Secondly: some plant toxics are activated, accelerated, (you pick the verb) by UV light; so you may have just lit the proverbial match under the stick of dynamite by laying in that tanning bed with poison ivy (very strong evidence you did).
    Sorry you had to learn the hard way & ruin a vacation but incorrect information/assumptions should not spread “willy-nilly”

  • phatkhat

    I take a shower with water hot enough to redden the skin. Not a permanent cure, but it lets me sleep for a while. With the chiggers, deer tick larvae, and regular ticks, Arkansas is miserable in the summer. I’d love to move somewhere without bugs!

  • Elizabeth

    SWEET RELIEF! I received a huge puffy spider bite on my rib cage, and the itchiness spread all over my breast. Absolute torture! I am so happy to have found this post! I wish I found it two days ago!!! Thank you! 🙂

  • Bill

    Stung on right hand by wasp on Saturday evening. Iced it immediately. Slight swelling by Sunday afternoon. Starting Sunday afternoon it swelled much more and started to itch immensely. Topical creams, even prescription strength, did nothing. Iced it all night long for relief. At work now and have been applying ice off an on all morning with some relief when my right hand is partially numb. Hard to work with right hand wrapped in ice. Read this article. Went and ran my hand under hot, but not too hot of water. Had to test heat of water with left hand since right hand was very sensitive to the hot water….it felt much hotter with right hand. When the water was at such a heat that it was hot to my left hand but I didn’t feel the need to withdraw it, I tried it on my right hand. Hurt pretty good at first. Did it three times for 1 minute each with about 20 seconds rest in between. I have no itching in my hand at this time. Amazing.

  • Robin816

    I can’t believe it! I am literally crying I am so relieved. I am allergic to mosquito bites, especially on my ankles. This bite was the worst. It is 4:00am and the second night with the intense itching which was getting worse. I had to go down to the lower level bathroom with my dryer so I did’t wake my kids or husband. Seconds later…done.

  • mr got

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge. You saved me from going through a nightmare scenario with a spider bite. You are the man!!!!

  • Jenny Ledger

    Omg, this ACTUALLY works!! I was stung by a wasp and the following day my wrist became swollen and very red, but it was the relentless, intense itching that made it unbearable. Desperately needing sleep, in the middle of the night I did some research on how do stop itching and found this! Very clever, yet so simple…..thank you, thank you!!!!!

  • Clarkston Tennis

    I live in Scotland. Home to the dreaded midge. It is a tiny but brutal little beastie that has been torturing me for over 40 years. They mainly blood feast on my legs and I have many many war wounds because of them. I regularly awake in the morning to find encrusted dry blood on my legs where I have scratched and broken the skin. These can take weeks and sometimes months to heal and more often than not leave me with unsightly scars. As a regular tennis player I had simply come to accept that playing my chosen sport has these consequeces (has Andy Murray had to cope with this burden I wonder..?). But no more. I played tennis last night and as expected became a midge banquet victim yet again. I had approximately 50 + bites. Unable to cope I capitulated to the online world of cures. And find a cure I did. Thank you. This is the best relief I have EVER found. I will be telling all my fellow Scots about this strategy in our battle with the murderous midge. Thanks again. Craig Beaton, Glasgow, Scotland, UK.

  • wisdumb

    Here is a better way to treat the itches: Run warn water in the sink or shower on your itch, then slowly turn the cold down, increasing the temperature slowly. Keep the water in as small an area as possible, but be sure the heat penetrates to the depth of the infection or sting. Continue until it becomes too hot then stop. One treatment works for most itches and bites, but poison oak may take nightly treatments.
    This procedure also eliminates staph and other infections – usually 3 times per day will completely eliminate red infections in a day or two, without antibiotics!

  • Marta

    Thank You – Thank You – Thank You – Relief at last!!

  • Andrea Turner

    I’ve tried just about everything to stop the itching of midge bites, including Windex (thanks to the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” and the back of a spoon immersed in boiling hot water, but nothing has worked as well as the good ol’ hairdryer. Thank fck I found you Mark!!! I’m sharing this with EVERYONE!!!

  • John

    Found this post yesterday morning and felt the need to affirm the general principle that extreme heat placed on noseeum bites is the best remedy. quick back story. A month ago, at the end of a vacation (thank god), I picked up a good 25-30 bites on the back of each leg. Never felt them that afternoon. Woke up at 3 AM (12 hours after shellfishing) and was in agony. Went to the shower and scrubbed the bites hard with soap. Repeated again a few more times. Rookie mistake. I scrubbed the bites too hard, opened them and ended in with welts and infected bites for about 9 days. Fast forward to Sunday. I picked up another 30-40 bites (legs, lower back) and was livid at myself for not taking steps to prevent. So this time, to treat them, I went to CVS and bought three diff types of cream – prep H, cortisone and Benadryl cream. Tried them all yesterday with only minutes of relief for each. Then I found this article. I’m wasn’t sure if I wanted to use the hair dryer but I did think that perhaps a good scalding hot shower might help. IT DID. Got home from work and took a good 30 min shower, using a more central water setting on the shower head (but not a full blown jet – you don’t want to open them). I then turned the temp up to as high as I could stand it and then placed each bite directly under the water for 20-30 seconds. First, there’s definite instant relief, and after the first shower, about half of the bites have not itched again. Took another one right before bed and was able to get a solid night of sleep (and this was night 2!) Did it again this morning and am down to about three to four bites that remain itchy but not nearly as bad as before. The other 20 bites are there but are no longer itchy, including an entire patch on my right calf of about 8-10 bites. No question noseeum bites need something more than just creams. Heat is the way to go. My advice on the super hot shower – don’t burn yourself obviously and put your AC on before you get in – you’ll be sweating when you are done. Good luck

  • frey

    9 horribly swollen mosquito(i can only assume?) bites & the itching was driving me mad. after loosing a great deal of sleep (or rather, not gaining much) these past few nights i decided to have a look for some kind of relief. Very glad i did! This is really starting to work. Thank you!!!!!

  • Elizabeth Tallent

    I got a spider bite during the night last night and it has been itchiest thing I’ve ever had in my life! Luckily I came across these words of advice and tried the hair blow dryer on the spot, with the head of it about a foot away from the bite on my knee for 45 seconds and an hour later I’m still not itching! Hurt a little bit, don’t think I could have lasted more than 45 seconds but apparently that’s all it needed. THANK YOU!!!

  • 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.