This past weekend I was BUSY. I had three indoor soccer games on Saturday, after a month of not playing any soccer. I was also planning on running a 5k Sunday morning for the Corvallis Fall Festival, along with playing yet another soccer game that early evening. Robey and I had a fair amount of canning type projects to finish up with, using the last of our garden’s tomatoes, the plums we had collected, and chopping up the Serrano peppers so we could put them in the freezer.
So....Serrano peppers, not to mention all peppers (with varying degrees in intensity), have this oil on them. That oil can be washed off your skin in the beginning, but if you wait too long it will soak in and one of the elements of the oil will attach itself to your nerves. What did I do? Why am I mentioning this? I cut up about 30 to 40 Serrano peppers (and a couple of Jalapenos), with no gloves on, and then proceeded to my three soccer games without a worry in my mind. I’d cut up peppers before and had slightly tingly, firey hands, but that was all. No major pain, and I just went about my business.
Well, what I didn’t mention above is that this element (I think it’s called Capsaicin), binds to your nerves, making your subsequent body part feel like it’s ON FIRE. Luckily I only really used one hand when touching the peppers. After my third soccer game on Saturday, my left hand started to hurt. It started getting worse.
It was late, so I began getting ready to hit the sheets so that I could make it to my run in the morning for the Corvallis Fall Festival. I took some pain killers for my hand, and then sat in a bathtub to let my legs relax for a while. While sitting in the bathtub I put my hands in the water, trying to relax. Bad idea. Hot water set my hand off and it started seriously burning. After getting out of the bath I finished getting ready for bed and then put some lotion on my hands. Another Bad Idea. Now my hand was literally so painful I felt like I could chop off my fingers and I wouldn’t know the difference. The only thing that seemed to help was running cold water over it. I tried to go to sleep but it was just too painful. So I put my hand in a bowl of cold water and tried to go to sleep, but unless the water was constantly moving it still hurt profusely.
Then I thought, I’ll leave my hand alone for a while, let it dry off, and it will probably numb up so I can get some sleep and still make my run. I tried to sleep for about 30 minutes but by the end of it I was starting to moan in pain and Robey was getting really worried. So, we both got up and started looking for a solution on the Internet.
There are all sorts of would-be doctors online, with a variety of different solutions. We started with the ones that made the most sense to us. Then we moved on to the more questionable ones. In total we tried olive oil, vinegar, regular soap, ice, Lysol, rubbing alcohol, triple sec, lotion, bleach spray, Pepto Bismol, and finally crushed up tums in water. We were both up until 3am, when finally Robey couldn’t get to sleep anymore because I kept shaking my hand vigorously because it was the only thing to temporarily relieve the pain. He went to sleep on the couch, while I tried to distract myself by watching some TV on the laptop. I was up for probably another 2 hours until my hand finally calmed down enough for me to pass out.
Why didn’t I try pain killers, you ask? I did. However along with our research came the revelation that pain killers simply don’t work for something like this. You just have to wait it out.
Other interesting/scary tidbits about this oil: It’s the same oil used in pepper spray. One site we found online had a training MD quoted as saying during his experience with a very similar situation, he would express the pain he experienced as 8 our of 10.
Moral of the story: USE GLOVES WHEN CUTTING HOT PEPPERS.