Jalapenos and Benadryl

Yesterday I made Mexican rice for the first time.  It turned out really well, by the way! I will tweak it a bit next time but the texture and flavor were pretty good.

This experiment also had me cutting up jalapeno’s for the first time. Now, I’m not a spice person.  I will on the rare occasion go as high as 3 stars, but 2 is my comfort zone.  My husband, on the other hand, likes it HOT. When he makes hot chili, he uses a mix of peppers that includes those tiny Thai peppers that I wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole (I don’t eat any of this chili, in case you were wondering). Chopping up said pepper mixture usually involves rubber gloves and chemistry glasses and lots of warnings to anyone else in the house, “Do Not Touch That! Don’t even BREATH it!”

But, as I said, I was chopping jalapenos.  Little, innocent, jalapenos.  So, even if I had known where Trey keeps the rubber gloves, I probably wouldn’t have used them anyway.  I just held the slices with my fingers while I scraped out all the seeds. Mistake number 1.

Mistake number 2, which was probably the worse one, was that after chopping said jalapenos and putting them in the food processor, I did not immediately wash my hands.  Instead I continued chopping the other veggies I would need for the mexican salad I was making to go with the rice. Half an onion, one bell pepper, and 1.5 tomatoes later the thumb and forefinger on my left hand start to sting, like I had a tiny papercut that some tomato juice got into.  Huh.  Not a big deal.  I finish the third tomato and it’s really stinging!  But I merely rinse off my hands and the knife and finish arranging things to start this fabulous mexican rice.  Suddenly, it gets bad enough I can no longer ignore it.  I wash my hands.  Then again because it still stings.  I put some oil in the Dutch oven to start the rice.  Wash my hands again.  About now I stick my thumb in my mouth to try and suck out the really stubborn tomato juice.  Thats when my tongue starts burning and I realize… Crap.  That was not the tomatoes.

Of course, by now it is not jalapeno oil on my finger continuing to burn.  It is the jalapeno oil that soaked down through several layers of skin and is protected and continuing to burn from the inside.

It is now about 2:30. We are supposed to leave around 6 to meet friends for dinner at 6:30.  So I have four hours to cook the rice, finish the salad, clean the kitchen, and shower.  Not a big deal, except that now I also have to take care of the burn on my fingers! I tried flushing with cool water, rubbing my fingers while flushing them, soaking them in ice water, ice water with soap, milk, milk with ice, even yogurt.  I tried ice bags, aloe, aloe with lidocaine even!  Turns out that once pepper oil actually saturates into your skin, topical treatments do pretty much nothing–at least not towards making the burn actually go away.  Keeping the burn suspended in cool liquid, especially flowing liquid, helps somewhat but only until the second you take said burn out of said cool liquid.  then the pain is absolutely excruciating. Not. Fun.

I am rather impressed that with only one working hand and having to keep the other one suspended in cool liquid I still managed to get the rice done and take a shower–both of which took 2-3 times as long as they should have.  I also toughed it up to go ahead and go to our dinner date–ice bag in tow.  They were really sweet about it and let me just sit with my fingers in a bowl of ice water.

So what did finally help? Benadryl.  About 5 hours after initial contact with the evil peppers, I called the family doc (aka Dad) and learned that by now, all the oils causing the burn are definitely gone and what I’m dealing with is an inflammatory response.  So, cold stuff helps somewhat because it is anti-inflammatory.  Ibuprofen might help, but Tylenol won’t. Benadryl is one of the strongest non-steroidal anti-inflammatories out there. If that didn’t work, the only trick left is prednisone, which would require a doctor visit to get a prescription.

Fortunately, the Benadryl worked!  And it has the lovely side effect of putting me right to sleep. By 2 am, when I discovered by ice bag was leaking, I was too tired to bother getting another one and my fingers were only irritated, rather than excruciatingly painful.  By 7 am, the burn is gone though my fingers still feel tight and grainy.

So, if I could give you one piece of advice for the future, this would be it:

WEAR GLOVES!

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