Jalapeno pepper hands: how to cure the burn

[NOTE: this post, describing an accident involving jalapeno peppers, has attracted a huge number of comments. See below. And please add your own thoughts as we seek a cure for this strange affliction!]


I received the following email from a good friend who I’ll call CD. He lives in the Washington, DC area. He sends along this cautionary tale about a cooking experience gone horribly wrong. His story is by turns frightening and hilarious. Enjoy.

Dude, I got a great story for you that I’ll try to relay in this message. Friday night S and I went over to J and C’s. I was going to help C prepare for a catering gig he had on Saturday. So we get there and start boozing and hanging out. We eat dinner and then begin the process of prepping for the catering gig.

Well, one step in the catering cooking process was to roast a 5-pound bag of jalapeno peppers on the grill and then remove the skins and de-seed them. Like what you’d do with a roasted red pepper. Well, at about 10:30pm I belly up to the table outside with all the peppers and start going to town. An hour later, I had peeled all 5 pounds worth….the catch is that I did it with no gloves.

At about mid-night S and I leave and I start complaining that my hands are burning. Not terribly, but a bit of fire. An hour later, we are back at S’s and it really sets in. Pain like I have never felt. Unbelievable, extreme, terrible, super harsh burning pain in both hands and even a little ways up both arms. It was like I had burnt both hands in a fire.

Now, I have to set the time frame so you can get the full affect of how long this pain lasted….it was at about 1am Saturday morning when I really began to realize i was in some trouble. At about 2:30am I woke S up and said I needed help (she had been asleep for about an hour). She got on the Internet and looked up how to stop jalapeno burn. She called two emergency rooms and even a number of “ask the nurse” hotlines. Nothing. At about 3:30am I was in so much pain i was rolling around on the floor almost yelling. By that time I had dipped both hands in milk, olive oil, vegetable oil, yogurt, oatmeal, water with baking soda, a bleach water mix, aloe and even mineral oil. Nothing helped.

At one point, I had both hands covered in aloe, a wet wash cloth on each and my hands in two huge bags that were filled with ice and water. That did not even help. at about 5am S calls my doctor at his emergency number. He says to get in the car and go to the emergency rooms at GW. So, we get in the car and I ride with my hands out the window to let the wind somewhat cool them down.

I check in with the front desk and am taken back to some ER room at about 6am. Now, realize that I am SO embarrassed at this point. Everyone in there is looking at me like I am a freak. They even wrote on the ER board where they identify what is ailing a patient “CD, jalapeno hands.” It was funny as hell.

Once I am in my little holding room they give me a shot a morphine, which by the way does nothing to ease the pain. Damn good high, but nothing for the pain. After the morphine they give me a shot of something stronger which also does nothing for the pain. I even got a shot of straight benedryl because they thought I might be having an allergic reaction. Needless to say, nothing works for the pain. They debated admitting me at one point. They also talked about putting me on some IV of pain killers.

Finally, after being there for about 3 hours, they tell me to go home and basically just wait out the pain. They did give me a prescription for some really strong pain killers.

Well, to get to the end….the pain finally lessoned to where I could take it on Saturday night at about 6pm. I was basically in a living hell for like 18 hours. Even today (Monday morning) I still feel a burning in both hands. If I scratch any part of my body, it immediately starts to burn. I can just bump into something and even that little bit of contact sets off a slight burn. And get this, my feet have this low grade burn from walking on them. That’s how much of the jalapeno oil got into my body.

  • Ashley

    Sooo here I am jalapeño Victim # who knows?! After cutting up 24 jalapeños and gutting them I washed up… No burning yet… Cut my kid up some plum and licked my finger and was like hmm that’s kind of spicy… Husband told me it was in my head and a few minutes later the burn began… I have tried dawn, vinegar, mustard, aloe, Lysol wipes with bleach, the stuff hubby uses after working on cars to wash his hands, olive oil, milk,etc (all of these worked for a few minutes) I have scrubbed, rubbed and patted just about every thing I could think of or google…. Next time gloves will be used… I still have to put cream cheese in jalapeños and I’m terrified lol… I’ve never in my life felt such an intense burn and felt totally stupid until I found y’all! So thanks for everyone else for your stories and advice guess on to the next CURE I go…

  • Tim

    Ok medically speaking, here is the cure:
    It might sound crazy but takes pain rating from 8/10 down to 2/10 instantly

    1.Hot water – hot as you can take rinse to open pores.
    2.Soap – lather
    4.Oil – Lather
    5. Rinse
    6. Repeat 4 or 5 times.

    This is the only permanent cure
    All the other remedies like milk,oil,yoghurt, ice water are only soothing for a few seconds.
    You need to open the pores in your hands up to get the chilli oils out!

    Enjoy fellow sufferers

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