It’s not only your mouth that can catch fire with spicy chilies.
Your hands, your eyes, really anywhere you have skin, can suffer from chili burn. But hands, of course, are the most common, and they can transfer the pain elsewhere if not remedied quickly. How do you stop the pain? It’s simple enough, but the obvious first gut reaction most people have is definitely not the best. Follow these steps and those hands burning from peppers will be long gone.
Step 1: Stay away from the water faucet.
Water is not your solution. In fact, it can worsen the chili burn you are experiencing as it actually moves the capsaicin (the compound that creates a pepper’s heat) around on your skin. It increases the area affected, it doesn’t reduce it. Instead of the faucet, head to the refrigerator immediately.
Step 2: Grab the milk from the fridge and soak those hands.
Milk is acidic, and those acids break down the capsaicin in those peppers that cause your current pain. Pour enough milk into a bowl that you can place your hand into it. Let the hand soak for 30 seconds to a minute. You’ll feel near immediate relief due to the chill of the milk, but keep the hand in there for the full time so that the capsaicin can break down. If you remove your hand too early, some of the burn may remain, and that can still transfer to other areas of your skin.
If the milk starts to warm up and you’ve got another hand to treat, dump the milk and pour in a new batch. The coldness really does help to get that immediate “ahhhh…”
Step 3: Remind yourself – Next time wear food preparation gloves.
Sure some chilies are worse than others for chili burn, but all chilies can cause it. If you’re handling chilies, whether it’s a medium-heat jalapeño or a much spicier habanero, it’s best to take precautions out the gate. That burning sensation on your hands can easily jump to anywhere you touch. Even hands that aren’t currently burning can transmit chili burn to an area with less protection, like the eyes.
Milk is the fastest solution, and it can relieve the pain from any skin. But there are other options as well. Check out our post on treating chili burn for more tips on ridding yourself of the pain. Or if you want to know the best way to approach relieving the burn from your eyes, take a look here.