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A Miraculous Cure for Bug Bite Itching?

By Mark D. Roberts | Saturday, June 28, 2008

First of all, 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 have 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 even less major bits, like mosquitoes, often lead to an unusually strong response. Where most folks get little bumbs that itch for a few hours, I can get large welts that itch terrible 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 love 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. But I’ve had my share of chigger and ant bites, mostly because I haven’t been careful.

In my itching agony a few weeks ago, I decided to do some Web surfing to see if I could find some relief. I’d been using the typical treatments – hydrocortisone cream, Benadry cream, etc. – with modest success. But I wondered if I could find something better. 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 the 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. I had been gardening in sandals, and had been foolish enough not to apply insect repellent to my feet. I got about a dozen ant bites, which soon became swollen centerpoints of major itching. My lotions were not helping. So I decided to try heat.

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 a minute. My skin felt hot and began to hurt. 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 five minutes I had blown dry 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. Now, about three weeks later, they are healing up much as they would ordinarily.

Since that first experiment, I’ve treated a few more bites with the same results. 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.

hair dryer warningI’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 (other than that it uses electricity which adds to global warming). And 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!

Topics: Recommendations |

18 Responses to “A Miraculous Cure for Bug Bite Itching?”

  1. Rick Says:
    June 28th, 2008 at 9:20 pm

    As a Native Texan I suggest you purchase and take good care of a healthy Aloe Vera plant (or two). Whenever bugs bite, simply break off a piece of this marvelous plant and rub its lotion on the bite as soon as possible.


  2. John C Key Says:
    June 29th, 2008 at 7:24 am

    After 58 years of living in Texas I must confess to not having heard of the heat treatment–I’m a fan of “Campho-Phenique” myself. But a hallmark of my medical practice has always been “don’t argue with success”.

    If one needs a scientific explanation I’d postulate that since many itchy substances are protein in nature, the heat from the dryer “denatures” the protein (like we do when we grill a steak) and renders the chemical inactive. Anyway, “don’t argue with success”, and don’t brand yourself!

  3. Quando Says:
    June 29th, 2008 at 8:15 am

    I definitely will recommend this ‘remedy’ to my wife, her has been hospitalised a few times from the nasty bug bites.
    Will let you know if it works on her. :)

  4. Kari M (Minnesota) Says:
    June 29th, 2008 at 9:55 pm

    I have just arrived home from the lake… living here in the land of 10,000 lakes ie(MN) with a couple of dry summers the bugs/mosquito’s haven’t been bad… but this year they are aweful… with the heavy spring rains and all… UGH! We used repellent, but it doesn’t last long… especially with swimming… I am a nurse and haven’t heard of this one… but I have done everything under the sun since arriving home… and then just found this site on the internet… and let me tell you what great Thanks I have to give you! BRAVO!… It worked fabulously! I didn’t use it on the kids… I did however, use an extreamly worm washrag and pressed it to their bites… I also have to thank you from them… the HEAT worked… I just ran the rag under extreamly warm water and pressed it to their bites immediately!

  5. The Rauths Says:
    July 8th, 2008 at 12:57 pm

    Hi Mark!! This is my tried and true recipe…I get horrible reactions and absolutely love this stuff! Works well on soothing horrible sunburns too.

    In a microwaveable bowl, put 2 TBSP Shae Butter, 1 TBSP Cocoa Butter, 1TBSP Bees Wax, 1 TBSP Baking Soda.

    Microwave for 30 seconds. Stir and continue cooking in microwave at 20 second intervals until it’s all melted.

    Add in 2 tsp sweet almond oil and 3-4 drops basil essential oil.

    Stir, then pour into a small jar. Allow to set.

  6. James McWhorter Says:
    July 14th, 2008 at 5:21 pm

    Yep! This works for me too. When I have a bite on my foot/ankle I go in the bath tub and run VERY warm water on the area. I do this until it gets a bit too hot and then I am done.

    I was going to offer the explanation about denaturing the protein but John got to it first! In the protein world the shape/structure determines it’s function. When you apply enough heat to the protein the structure changes and so does the function (no more itch!)

  7. Miyuki S. Says:
    July 16th, 2008 at 6:27 pm

    This is the 4th or 5th site that I read about relief from an ant’s bite and I only tried this because I’m at work and the bites on my (let’s just say an ant got caught inside my bra at tennis) ahem was driving me crazy. Needless to say the bites are in a sensitive place and It hurts almost as bad as a bee sting but with an itch so intense that I don’t care if my co-workers so me scratching there.

    I have no access to hot running water or a blow dryer so, being the somewhat resourceful woman that I am, I microwaved some hot water and pressed the mug against my shirt as much as I could bear AND… it IS miraculous!

    With great care and editing, the internet is a wonderful source of information and help from fellow human beings. Peace.

  8. Juliana Says:
    July 28th, 2008 at 5:01 pm

    i’ve always used this method! it works great! however, whenever i apply heat to the bite, it starts ITCHING LIKE MAD. but after a few seconds, the itch goes away. :D

    i think that this works because we put the histamines on overload. the histamines in our body are what makes the bite itch. when heat is applied, more histamines are produced and the bite itches even more. but when you put A LOT of heat for alittle while, a lot of histamine is made, up to the point where the body cant produce anymore for awhile; which is why the itch is gone for a few hours. :]

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    September 6th, 2008 at 6:22 pm

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  10. Miss French Says:
    November 22nd, 2008 at 12:53 pm

    Thank you so much for this. I couldn’t sleep tonight and tried this. I’m feeling much better now. Thank God for the internet.

  11. David Guzman Says:
    August 23rd, 2009 at 8:30 am

    It works! I was suffering from over 40 bites on my feet, ankles and calves, all the way up to my knees, and scratching to the point of bleeding, it was so bad. Used my wife’s hair dryer. Instant relief.

  12. April Says:
    September 7th, 2009 at 7:44 am

    My husband sustained numerous bites on his ankles and lower legs as well as other places from walking our dog through the woods. I had slathered him with hydrocortisone creams, painted them with new skin, given him oral antihistamines, etc with little relief. At 1am when I couldn’t take hi scratching an waking me up anymore, I googled and found this site. I told him to hairdry them. He came back to bed and was able to sleep 6 hrs with relief. Thanks for sharing!!

  13. Michael Says:
    August 26th, 2010 at 1:08 am

    WHY is this technique not better known???

    I discovered it a couple of years ago when looking for relief from holiday mosquito bites. Unlike all the other remedies I’d previously tried, it just works.

    Heat the bite (my choice is to use a hairdryer) until it stings for a few seconds rather than itching. Relief for hours ensues.

    I’ve shared the information with anyone who has cared to listen, and without fail the feedback has been that it works for them too.

    I’d love to find a definitive medical explanation of why it works - the histamine overload and the protein denaturing explanations both sound plausible to me - but whatever. It works!!!

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    July 17th, 2011 at 11:43 am

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  15. scubakjr Says:
    August 17th, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    Same theory, a little more extreme. Hold a lit match as close as possible to the bite for as long as possible. (When I was a smoker, easier to simply hold a lit cigarette…but I gave that up 20 years ago.)

  16. Rachel Says:
    August 20th, 2011 at 5:14 am

    This absolutesly works!! I had 2 bites from someting. One on top of my foot and one on the back of my leg. They itched for a full 24 hours before I searched for some form of relief besides OTC creams tht were NOT working at all. A shot with the hair dryer worked all night long! After my shower the next morning the itchies were back, one more zap and bye bye itchies!!!

  17. susan Says:
    September 25th, 2011 at 5:57 pm

    definitely works!! I’ve been doing this for a while now with either a hair drier or very hot water in the shower - almost feels orgasmic!! LOL def gets rid of the itch!!

  18. hani Says:
    September 26th, 2011 at 9:02 am

    Thank you. Have been struggling for weeks. Tried the hot water, the benedryl goop and this morning after going crazy, found you and did the hair dryer thing and guess what….. it works. Thanks you so much.


Thanks for your willingness to make a comment. Note: I do not moderate comments before they are posted, though they are automatically screened for profanities, spam, etc., and sometimes the screening program holds comments for moderation even though they're not offensive. I encourage open dialogue and serious disagreement, and am always willing to learn from my mistakes. I will not delete comments unless they are extraordinarily rude or irrelevant to the topic at hand. You do need to login in order to make a comment, because this cuts down on spam. You are free to use a nickname if you wish. Finally, I will eventually read all comments, but I don't have the time to respond to them on a consistent basis because I've got a few other demands on my time, like my "day job," my family, sleep, etc.

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