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Sgt. Pepper’s Nightmare

July 27, 2011

Last night I wanted to whip up something for dinner involving lentils and whatever vegetables were in the fridge. I pulled out a zuc, carrot, some broc, and a couple of sweet potatoes, then I saw a bag of habaneros.

I have a high tolerance for spicy foods, one could say that I have an affinity towards them. I can cut and add Hawaiian chili peppers and Thai chili peppers to just about anything and not feel that it was ever too hot.

This laissez-faire attitude does not translate well when working with habaneros. I pulled out a plump red one, cut it up, threw it in the pot and continued cutting the rest of the vegetables. After I was finished I washed my hands with soap and water.

Mistake 1: Not washing hands immediately after handling habanero pepper.

I got the lentils cooking, made sure Tim was watching the pot, and headed out for my run. My hands felt a little tingly, but nothing too bad. I wiped sweat off my brow and from my nose, and immediately felt a burning sensation.

Mistake 2: Only washing my hands once after cutting the habanero.

Mistake 3: Rubbing face after handling a habanero.

The burning sensation intensified as my run wore on, but I imagined myself being fueled by pepper power (that worked for all of one minute). I finally got home after an uncomfortable run only to realize that when I stopped running the burning became excruciating all over my face and fingers. I washed my hands and face repeatedly to no avail.

I could not even look or come near the lentil stew because the smell of the pepper and the heat of the stew was unbearable, so I made myself a smoothie for dinner and iced my hands. Taking a shower was painful because even lukewarm water intensified the pain.

About 9:00 p.m., four hours since I touched the pepper, I started to get really worried- would I lose sleep because of improper handling of a habanero? I searched the internet for solutions and found that capsicum, the oil in chili peppers that makes them hot is basic, so using something acidic can counteract the effects. I soaked and washed my hands in vinegar, and while this helped for a little bit, the burning came back. I read some suggestions to use bleach, which I was not too keen on, but I was feeling desparate. I made a diluted solution and soaked and washed my hands in the bleach- AND IT WORKED! I am not sure if the bleach corroded the skin away that had soaked up the capsicum, or if the bleach itself worked to neutralize it, but it did the trick.

What did we learn from my stupidity?

1) Use gloves when handling habaneros!

2) Wash hands immediately following handling.

3) Wash hands multiple times.

4) If you fail to follow these measures, turn to a highly toxic substance to corrode off your burning skin 🙂

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One Comment leave one →
  1. July 30, 2011 10:37 am

    Ouch! At least the vegetable dahl turned out to be yummy. Sorry you had to make such a sacrifice for dinner. I’ll cut the peppers next time.

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