Capsaicin is the chemical in spicy foods, particularly peppers, that gives them their heat. Many people experience a burning sensation when they harvest peppers in their gardens or chop hot peppers such as jalepenos. When capsaicin is applied to the skin, it can cause chemical burns.
Immediately after the Burn
If you experience burning of your skin following the handling of a food containing capsaicin, apply milk to the burn immediately. Because capsaicin is an oily chemical, the lactic acid in the milk breaks down the capsaicin and allows the oils to be washed away. Drinking milk can also break down capsaicin in the mouth and throat and help relieve the burning sensation from eating capsaicin-heavy foods such as red pepper and jalepenos.
Other substances that break down oils, such as dishwashing liquid or lemon juice, can help remove the capsaicin from your skin. Use cold water when washing your hands and avoid scrubbing the affected area, which could irritate the burn and rub the capsaicin deeper into the skin.
Treating Capsaicin Burns
Treatment for capsaicin burns is similar to treatment for other chemical burns. Capsaicin burns are generally minor chemical burns and will heal on their own with time. If the burns have blistered, apply antibiotic ointment to prevent infection while the blisters break and heal. If your skin needs additional protection, apply a loose, non-stick guaze bandage.
Avoiding Capsaicin Burns
Always wear rubber gloves when working with capsaicin-rich foods or harvesting peppers in the garden. Wash cutting boards on which peppers have been cut thoroughly with a grease-cutting dishwashing liquid and hot water. Protect your eyes when working with capsaicin by washing your hands and arms thoroughly after chopping peppers or gardening to remove any remaining chemical from the skin before you touch your eyes.
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