This weekend was an eye opener. I mentioned in the Szechwan Ribs recipe that I learned a valuable life lesson. I learned that in the kitchen, as with everywhere else in the world, you are not invincible, even if you are a Sultana.
To prepare the Szechwan sauce, I needed 25 red chillies. Well, not having them on hand, nor being close to a speciality store that would have them, I decided to use a scotch bonnet chili that I had purchased for another recipe. I started slicing everything like normal. The onions, grated the ginger and then the chili. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary.
I would just like to mention that I have not used a scotch bonnet before, I know that a lot of the recipes that I have posted have called for them, but I either cannot get them or don’t want that much heat. So I usually opt to leave them out or use a less “hot” pepper like jalapeño or a dash of hot sauce.
About 30 minutes after completing the sauce that I was preparing, I noticed that my fingers felt like your tongue when you have spicy food. Not painful, just tingly. Then fairly uncomfortable, like a “not quite a burn but you feel it”.
Immediately I sought Google’s help in finding a remedy for this problem, and wondered why this was happening.
First of all, the active component of any chili is called Capsaicin. An oil found in hot chilis of every variety. Capsaicin is an irritant to most mammals. It is used, mostly in food to give it some “heat” but also as a natural pest deterrent and even in pepper spray. This oil gets onto and into your skin, and reacts with the same receptors that feel physical heat and abrasive damage. That is why when you hear it described, it is often said to be a burning sensation, a sensation I found out to be intensified by proximity to heat.
This is all well and good, but I did not react like this when cutting up Jalapeños a couple of weeks back. What gives? Then it hit me. I had been repairing a shirt the night before. I had pricked the first four fingers on my left hand countless times. So I am reading other accounts of this same predicament, and everyone is describing the pain as near unbearable. I was not at that point yet,
We know the why. But what can you do to stop the pain. There are several remedies floating around the webbernets. Logically you think, well I drink milk if I have something too hot to eat, why not? Skim milk will not cut it. Although I read that people were using cream, whole milk, yogurt and even sour cream to differing results. Some said they had immediate relief, others not so much. I was of the latter.
I also tried:
Other remedies that I read but had not the materials for were:
As time wore on, the sensation intensified to the point where I was sure that I was holding one of the lit coals from the smoker. When I looked at my hand I was surprised to see flesh still there. Many people had experienced similar amounts of pain, I was skeptical upon reading that, but at 11 at night when it had gotten to this point, I was considering a trip to the hospital or calling poison control.
My only relief came from clutching ice cubes and allowing them to melt. But the heat from my fingers, yes they were putting of THAT MUCH heat, had the cubes melted in less than 30 minutes and the water tepid and ineffective.
As the clock tolled 11:30, it was decided to go to bed. I grabbed an ice pack from the freezer, you know the plastic ones with the blue goo in them, and wrapped my hand around that and tied it all together with a tea towel. I awoke at 2 am in no pain and very much relieved.
It is now Monday. These events took place on Saturday afternoon, starting around 2 pm. It takes about 12 hours for this oil to work its way out of or be absorbed by your body. …or at least that is my experience. So I say unto you;
Always wear gloves, use plastic wrap, or even a sandwich bag to cover your hands as you cut anything with a known irritant in it. (Although a haz-mat suit would not be seen as overkill either)
Never touch your skin, eyes, or other body parts without washing thoroughly after cutting chilies or working with anything that can contain capsaicin oil in it like hot sauce. Also, don’t touch other people until washing for the same reason.
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