Monday, August 23, 2010

Lesson Learned, or Capsaicin is Evil

I really should have known. But I really did not expect the horror!

Rewind: we have a vegetable garden. Erich has really done a fantastic job with it. He grows several types of peppers, including jalapenos. Erich's dad, a chile aficionado, and his brother were visiting last night en route to moving bro into the dorm for his second year of college.

Erich was making homemade pizza for dinner. He also had a hankering for fresh salsa, so I volunteered to chop and assemble said salsa. I particularly enjoy dicing onions. I started with those, then moved on to the six fresh jalapenos the recipe called for. Erich offered me gloves, but I declined as I thought I would just get it done quickly, wash my hands, and that would be that. I halved them, seeded them and chopped them up. I used the same knife and cutting board and chopped up tomatoes and other ingredients and mixed it all together.

I started to feel a tingle under my ring. I felt a little burning here and there on my knuckles. I used soap and water to wash off the chile juices. Rinse and repeat.... "Wow, my hands are like, on fire," I said, extremely wittily and eloquently. The men of the house all agreed that was weird. Erich asked FIL what he does to get the capsaicin off his hands. Soap and water was the prescribed remedy. "Okay, I'll try that...for the fifth time!" I started to whimper.

And I could no longer use warm water. The burning started to get pretty intense, spreading to all ten fingers, especially concentrated on my knuckles and nail beds. This was pain. Then I couldn't carry anything moderately heavy because the pressure intensified the burning. It truly felt like I had started up a gas burner on the stove and lightly seared my fingers.

Well, I was really feeling bad for myself. I hadn't held Lily in well over an hour and I knew she was going to need to eat eventually, but I was afraid to touch anything. So I did what any Millenial would do in this situation: I asked Dr. Google for help. I was not alone among internet users who had carelessly burned their fingers slicing hot peppers without gloves. What to do, though?

I found a remedy: make a solution, one part bleach, five parts water. Occasionally dip fingers in the solution, which will neutralize the non-water-soluble capsaicin into a salt, which is water-soluble. It didn't seem to help at first, so I poured a bowl of milk to soak my hands. That felt good, I think mainly due to the cool temperature. After a while, I think the bleach solution did work because I could start to function without terrible pain as long as I wasn't gripping anything too tightly.

After testing my still-burning hands on Erich's skin (and determining that my burning was not contagious), I collected my baby, who was ready for bed. I was relieved that my hands weren't going to burn her skin. The worst part of this ordeal was being barred from even holding her until we knew I wouldn't hurt her. (And I won't even get into the issue of an unexpected poop, more solid than it used to be, the pain and yuck-factor in swishing it in the toilet and I'm definitely going to get one of those diaper sprayers... oh, looks like I got into it, sorry.)

The rest of the evening, I was distracted from my pain. As long as my fingers still smelled like the lobby of a hotel with a pool, I could function. They were STILL throbbing when I went to sleep as the bleach faded. I woke up and they seemed okay, except when any significant pressure was placed on them. After my warm shower today, it was as though they were freshly burned for at least half an hour. Even now, about 30 hours later, a slight tingle remains.

I will never, ever, ever even think about handling any combination of knife and hot pepper without gloves on ever again. EVER.

1 comment:

anne said...

Oh man, that sucks. Jed says coating your hands with a splash of olive oil forms a barrier & really helps. His coworker got habanero burns in bands around his wrists over his gloves. Who know it was so dangerous to chop peppers?