How to stop my fingers from burning up?
June 10, 2007 7:20 PM   Subscribe

I chopped and seeded four hot peppers about 45 minutes ago, and now my finger tips are on fire! I've done this in the past but have never experienced such intense discomfort before.

When I run my hands under cold water the pain subsides, but continues once out of the water. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to hasten the recovery time?

Oh, and next time I'll be wearing gloves!
posted by cleo to Food & Drink (20 answers total)
Pour some vinegar in a bowl and stick your fingers in it. That and time.
posted by Airhen at 7:21 PM on June 10, 2007

Also, from hard experience: Don't touch any other parts of your skin, especially your eyes or nose or mouth. Or, for god's sake, your genitals. It's easy to forget when you're using the bathroom.

Next time, use disposable surgical gloves from the drug store.
posted by ROTFL at 7:26 PM on June 10, 2007

I hope you don't have contacts in either.
posted by rcavett at 7:32 PM on June 10, 2007

scrub your hands with dish soap and use a nail or vegetable brush if you have one--you need to get those oils off your skin.

if the skin is really inflamed, ibuprofen may help.
posted by thinkingwoman at 7:34 PM on June 10, 2007

this is just a guess, but sugar is supposed to neutralize the hotness of a pepper... on your tongue anyway. i wonder if it would do the same for non-tastebud pain receptors.
posted by joeblough at 7:35 PM on June 10, 2007

Vinegar probably won't work well. Putting milk or cream in a bowl and soaking fingers will work better because anything with casein in it replaces capsaicin (the spicy chemical in chile peppers) in the pain receptors in your mouth/fingers/etc.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:37 PM on June 10, 2007

The best thing to do is mix one part bleach to five parts water, and dip your hands in it quickly. The chlorine in the bleach turns the capsaicin into a salt, thus making it water-soluble.
posted by cerebus19 at 7:40 PM on June 10, 2007 [3 favorites]

Seconding dairy products! Yoghurt is also good (and traditional) for quenching chilli fire.

As to why this is affecting you now, it's hard to say. You may have encountered a much hotter chilli than normal. You may have already had some damage done to the skin on your fingertips (sanding wood, using harsh detergents or chemicals, handling anything spiky or prickly) or possibly you skin has been leached of it's natural oils and, dryness setting in, it's starting to crack and break.

Go buy a packet of disposable ambidextrous gloves - I use them in my kitchen all the time on my left hand (holding the offending item whilst chopping with my right) after a particularly awful encounter whilst absentmindedly rubbing a runny nose with chilli fingers. Owwwweeee!
posted by ninazer0 at 7:42 PM on June 10, 2007

(If you don't have bleach, ammonia will do the trick as well, in the same proportions. Just be sure not to use both together.)
posted by cerebus19 at 7:42 PM on June 10, 2007

It probably depends on the type of pepper you just cut up. If you just prepared peppers that are hotter than you normally use, this could be the reason.

I've also had problems with hot peppers and I found out why I couldn't stop the burning very fast: The hot pepper juice had soaked through my fingernails because of it's oily-ness.

My solution to prevent this was to cut up the peppers very fast and touch them minimally. Also to rinse my hands a few times while cutting them up.
You could just buy some cheap disposable food-grade gloves as well.
posted by jammnrose at 7:48 PM on June 10, 2007

Capsaicin (it tastes like burning) is soluble in alcohol. Rubbing alcohol, everclear, vodka, etc. are you best bets.
posted by sanko at 7:56 PM on June 10, 2007

Wikipedia says that milk actually counters the peppers' effects.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:57 PM on June 10, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for such quick responses!

I tried soaking in milk and have had no relief.

I tried bleach and water, and again have had no relief.

The only thing that seems to be a factor is time. The burning isn't as bad as when I first posted, so it appears that I'm just going to have to wait it out.

Unless of course someone else comes up with the perfect remedy! Keep the suggestions coming!!
posted by cleo at 8:21 PM on June 10, 2007

The best remedy is to wear latex gloves when chopping anything hotter than jalapenos. But I suppose that will only help you in the future.

Don't touch your weener after cutting up habaneros. I did this. It wasn't enjoyable.
posted by Justinian at 8:58 PM on June 10, 2007

Just in case people post in one and not the other. . .

two nearly identical questions from two different people in less than an hour. Impressive.
posted by tiamat at 9:14 PM on June 10, 2007

I had seriously unbelievable pain from chopping nine or ten peppers of various kinds, un-gloved. I kept my hand under ice and/or in water after the burning started, which actually seemed to make things worse.

Originally I thought I'd have to go to the emergency room for some topical pain relief, but we ended up calling poison control instead. They told me to soak my hand in an antacid, specifically Mylanta. That relieved the pain far better than anything else did, and seemed to speed up the process of recovery.
posted by Wavelet at 9:42 PM on June 10, 2007

ROTFL wrote: Don't touch any other parts of your skin, especially your eyes or nose or mouth. Or, for god's sake, your genitals.

Or for that matter, anyone else's genitals. I'm sure an ex-girlfriend of mine still winces when she remembers the day we combined cooking and nookie.
posted by tim_in_oz at 11:21 PM on June 10, 2007

Another tip for the future is to rub your hands with oil (olive oil or whatever) before cutting hot peppers- capsaicin is oil soluble and you can simply wash off the oil when you're done- easier than keeping latex gloves or whatever about.
posted by prentiz at 5:55 AM on June 11, 2007

I have done this - I think it comes from handling the seeds. I was up all night after trying milk, icewater, painkillers, litocaine, everything. I could not believe the intense pain I felt or the duration. I sat with my hands in icewater and watched a couple movies. My hands burned even in the ice water. Good luck!
posted by xammerboy at 8:12 AM on June 11, 2007

I've read to dust your dry hands with cornstarch. Worth a try, at this stage. Good luck!
posted by sevenstars at 12:23 PM on June 11, 2007

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