Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Jalapeño Hands

Oh the pain!!! I was making salsa and guacamole for my friend's farewell dinner last night and had to dice some jalapeño. I have done this many times before, though the peppers were never quite so enormous, and I usually experience a mild burn on my hands for a few minutes, but last night was a shocker!

Jalapeños contain capsaicin, which is hydrophobic (not soluble in water) and acts as an herbicide in the chili pepper family. So first I tried washing the hands with lots of soap and water, because soap can bind nonpolar molecules such as capsaicin (though it had to be cold water because anything resembling heat would increase the burn significantly). When that did not seem to be working I asked Husband to look into remedies online. Here is a list of all that we tried:

- rubbing alcohol (pleasant cooling effect and relief for ~30 seconds, then resumed burn)
- olive oil (the theory, again, is that the oil will bind the capsaicin and help it wash off, but it actually made the burn seem greater for some reason)
- soy milk
- soy yoghurt (at this point my guests arrived, which was interesting)
- lime juice (was very pleasant, but burn returned soon again)
- moisturizing lotion
- hand sanitizer (though same as alcohol really)
- hydro cortisone lotion
- pepto bismuth, crushed and dissolved in water because I did not have any liquid pepto (online remedy that wikipedia says is ineffective, and that is true in my experience)

The only thing that worked in the long run was to sit with my hands in a bowl of cold soapy water. I would take the hands out every couple of minutes, and when the burn became intense I would dip them back in. I never did try bleach, which is another online remedy that wikipedia says is ineffective. The cutting of the peppers happened at ~7pm and I finally noticed an improvement in my hands around midnight, so about 5 hours total duration. I also refrained from actually eating the salsa and guacamole beyond a tasting stage, though my guests did not complain of any digestive issues.

In a related side note, our cumbers were completely destroyed over the course of a single day by the striped cucumber beetle. I have red somewhere the jalapeño spray can be used to deter them, which from my experience, I am tempted to think is true.


maeverin said...

three things come to mind: 1) you running around flapping your hands
2)poison ivy and 3)ice cream. the first should be obvious, but here's ther other two--when you mentioned some of the remedies like bleach, i thought of what we used on my boyfriend's bouts of poison ivy. i forget what the oil is that causes the itch, but i wonder if it acts similarly to the capsaicin, and therefore use similar remedies. in that case, the bleach should have helped. the last thought i had was about ice cream. when you eat a hot pepper, milk is the popular heat-killer, but ice cream is supposedly more effective because of either the sugar or fats. so maybe next time, try coating your hands in ice cream (not the soy stuff). couldn't hurt.

Paulina said...

Next time!?! I hope there will never again be such a time! As for ice cream - we thought about it but did not have any. We tried the soy instead but that was ineffective. Also none of that pink lotion for poison ivy since we are not allergic to it. And bleach sounded too scary.

maeverin said...

it sounds scary, but a bath of bleach (diluted of course) is practicaly the only thing that helps his poison ivy. granted, this isn't poison ivy we're talking about here.
better yet, so there won't be a next time, use gloves:)

racephan™ said...

The same horrible thing happened to me last night and what a surprise it was. The pain was miserable.

I alternated bathing my hands in water, aloe, rubbing alcohol and milk. After about 6 hours, I was able to pass out in exhaustion around 5 AM with my hands wrapped in cloths saturated with alcohol.

Milk was the most relieving of them all.