How to Remedy Jalapeno Oil burns in your Eye

Vicki's burning eye

Last night I decided to make a quick dinner.  I’d been running much of the day and didn’t really feel like slaving over dinner.  So I decided to make some grilled chicken with a black bean, corn, and pepper salsa.

Mind you I’ve been teaching culinary classes since 1992 – that’s 23 years.  In all that time I’ve not once had this happen to me.

While preparing my salsa that consists of black beans, corn, red & yellow bell peppers and a Jalapeño pepper, I did all the chopping and dicing and removed the seeds from the peppers.  This time though I was lazy and didn’t feel like getting out my pairing knife so used my fingers to remove the insides and seeds of the Jalapeño before dicing.

I washed my hands and fingers very well knowing that the oils from the seeds can burn if you touch them to any part of your body.  Apparently I didn’t do a very good job though.

Jalapeño peppers are a chili pepper grown mostly in Mexico, the southwestern United States, and Central America. Most people associate eating jalapeño peppers with a burning sensation in the mouth. However, the jalapeño can burn your skin burn simply from touching the pepper during food preparation.

jalapeno peppers 1

After eating dinner I was sitting at the dining room table talking to my son about his upcoming week when my bangs got into my eye.  I immediately put my hand up to move them and since they’d tickled my eye I took my right index finger and began scratching the inside corner of my right eye.

OMG!!! The burning sensation that I began feeling was like nothing I’d felt before.  I asked my son to get me a wet paper towel so that I could try rinsing my eye out.  The burning just kept getting worse and worse.

While I’ve always shared in my classes not to touch your body after touching a Jalapeño before I couldn’t recall what the cure was for removing the stinging.  I asked my son to quickly look it up on Google for a quick remedy.  Then he said, “Mom you’ve got to trust me on this.  Don’t ask questions just do what I say.”  Yea right!!!

With my left eye barely able to stay open because the right was on fire I see him pour a class of milk.  “Milk” I said.  What on earth are you going to do with that.  He said, “Pour it in your eye.”  There’s no way I thought.  He wasn’t going to pour milk in my eye.  He asked me to trust him, but I wanted to know the source he got the information from.

Finally I said, “Fine.”  He poured the milk into my eye and onto my clean showered hair too! Instantly the burning went away.  I was totally amazed how quick that happened, and that the milk did the trick.

It turns out that there are several quick fix home remedies for Jalapeño burns.   Some of these remedies rely on neutralizing the capsaicin oil while others simply provide symptomatic relief. They are:

  1. Milk – Milk is one of the best home remedies for jalapeño burns.  Not only is it readily available but it also works by neutralizing the capsaicin oil that is causing the sting. You can drink the milk or soak your skin with it. The casein in milk “unhooks” the capsaicin from the nerves in the skin or mouth and then washes away the capsaicin molecules. Sour cream and yogurt both contain casein and will work in the same way as milk.
  2. Apple Cider Vinegar – A 5-10 minute soak in apple cider vinegar may act as a disinfectant and cleaning agent for jalapeño burns.
  3. Lemon or Lime Juice – The burn from a jalapeño pepper may be helped by soaking the affected part in lemon or lime juice. Because both of these juices contain citric acid, they may be useful in neutralizing the alkalinity of the capsaicin in the jalapeño pepper. Using the juice as a mouthwash may not be as pleasant as drinking a cold glass of milk, but it may be helpful in stopping the burn. Chilled lemon or lime juice on the skin may work in two ways by neutralizing the capsaicin and acting as a cool compress for the skin.
  4. Aloe Vera – The liquid from the leaf of the Aloe Vera plant is a popular remedy for burns including jalapeño pepper burns. A natural anesthetic and antiseptic, aloe soothes the burn but must be reapplied frequently.
  5. Vegetable Oils – Vegetable oils such as olive, corn, sesame, or coconut oil may work since capsaicin is soluble in vegetable oil. Remove as much of the pepper oil as possible first then apply the vegetable oil and let it set on the burn for a few minutes. Vegetable oil can also be used as a mouth wash; swish it around in your mouth for several minutes then spit it out and use additional vegetable oil if necessary.
  6. Baking Soda – Good for all kinds of skin burns, mix baking soda with either water or milk to make a thick paste. Apply it to the jalapeño skin burn and let it remain on the burn for 10 to 15 minutes before washing the area. I’ve used this method for a bee sting as well.
  7. Cold Compresses – Since capsaicin is not soluble in cold water, cool or cold compresses will not do much to neutralize the active ingredient in a jalapeño pepper burn. However, a cold compress can help the pain of the burn by numbing some of the nerve endings. Cool water flushes may help to wash out some of the capsaicin if juice gets in the eyes or nose. In most cases, exposure of the eyes or nose should be treated by a healthcare professional.
  8. Alcohol – Applying rubbing or drinking alcohol to a jalapeño burn may help to neutralize the juice since capsaicin is soluble in alcohol. If the burns are in the eyes or mouth, do NOT use rubbing alcohol since it can be poisonous even if not swallowed. As with all of these home remedies, you must leave them in place long enough to neutralize the pepper oil.
  9. Toothpaste – Use toothpaste with both menthol and aloe vera gel for jalapeño pepper burns in the mouth. Aloe Vera and menthol will work together to decrease the burning in your mouth. You can also apply toothpaste to your skin, but it will have to be reapplied frequently to keep the burning at bay.
  10. Other Soothing Agents – Other foods and readily available medications may help ease the pain of jalapeño pepper burns. On a skin burn, try using over-the-counter hemorrhoid creams. Honey, tomatoes, other acidic fruits, and very ripe bananas can be eaten or applied to the skin to relieve pain. Again, the remedy that works for someone else may or may not work for you so try different home remedies.

Of course to prevent any of this from happening to begin with you can take any one of these precautions:

  • wear gloves – especially if you have a cut.  Nothing will be able to neutralize the burning if the oils get into a sore or cut.
  • coat your hands with vegetable oil
  • wear glasses if there could be any chance that the jalapeño oils could splatter into your eyes
  • when eating, mix with other foods to cut the heat or eat with bread which will soak up some of the oils

I’m always very careful when cutting any hot peppers.  I did wash my hands extremely well using a liquid soap after cutting the pepper, and cleaning it.  I’m not certain if the liquid soap isn’t as effective or if I just didn’t get under my nails good enough.

I could only imagine if a seed fell onto the floor or if I had touched my hands onto my dogs eyes.  I would have had no idea what would have been troubling them, but certain it would have been disastrous. So please always use caution when using hot peppers around your pets.

Thankfully my son came to the rescue.  My husband did run in when he heard all the commotion, but my son had already saved the day!

Let this be a warning to everyone.  Even though I knew to be cautious I became a victim.

Hopefully you’ll know now what to do should this ever happen to you.  Thanks to my son Graham for saving the day!

 

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17 comments

  1. Oh, ouch!!!! I feel for you. I’ve not had these problem, but I know people who have. So painful! I’ve heard of that milk trick — good to hear it works. I always use a teaspoon to scoop out the seeds/ribs from my pepper. And after hearing your story, I’ll never be tempted to take a shortcut!

    • I honestly couldn’t believe how bad it felt.  Glad the milk worked, and so quickly.

      As for this post I’m having lots of challenges with it.  I’m not sure if it’s with WordPress or my laptop.  The wording keeps cramming together and photos have been left out.  

  2. I am so glad that the milk worked, Vicki! What a cool trick!

  3. SO glad your son was able to help you find a remedy so quickly! How scary.
    P.S. It was wonderful to chat with you tonight. Hope we can meet in person one day soon! xo

    • I’m glad he was able to help me as well.  

      I agree it was so nice talking with you.  I look forward to meeting you someday soon.  Enjoy the rest of your vacation!

  4. This is a great post. I’ve had the same thing happen but had no idea how to remedy it. I hope it never happens again but I’ll remember this if it does. Thanks Vicki!

    • After this happened my son said time I have to blog about this. He was right because so many aren’t aware of how to remedy these burns. No matter how much or how long we’ve cooked there’s always something we don’t know or have forgotten.

  5. OUCH. Been there. Done that. I had someone tell me once about using oil and that does help. Of course I had to test it and I might not have let the oil sit long enough. That was a dumb ouch!

  6. This is a few months late. I just had to last out the night when I did it. I thought I was going to rip my eyeball out. OMG I just kept flushing it with water. I never thought about milk. I use milk if I eat something too hot. Brilliant!!

  7. Oh no, poor you! I can’t imagine how painful this must have been. Hope I never need to use this information … but I’ll remember it just in case.

  8. Thank goodness for your quick thinking son! I can’t imagine getting it in the eye. You poor thing!!! Milk makes a lot of sense. I usually drink milk when I eat really spicy food because it kills the burn. However I would never have thought to pour it in the eye. Having had somewhat similar experiences I have learned that the gloves are a must!!

  9. OH MY GOSH!!!! Can see again. Talk about pain? Wanted to use a spoon on my eye. However was alone when I did it…….pour milk in a cup, grab a tablespoon,put it in the cup of milk for as long as yo can then with a little milk in the spoon, use the back of the spoon as a compress on your eye,tilting it just a bit. The milk will run into your eye. Magic! I can see and the pain is gone. WArning! Never use water or visine. Will just make it worse.

  10. Thank you for this post. You helped me in mid crisis! my 10 year old son, Jesse, was helping me make jalapeno poppers. Like you, we were aware of the dangers. He washed his hands with soap, etc. He was screaming in pain and we tried to rinse his eyes with water and he kept rubbing them.Our intuition was telling us to do all the wrong things!  I quickly searched google for a remedy as he stood blind and screaming in agony in the bathroom, completed terrified. Your blog came up at the top of the list. I scrolled down past the first few paragraphs to find the key words- “remedy” or whatever. And in a second I knew what to do. All I remember is reading “Milk?!… he poured milk into my eye and my clean showered hair too.” So I grabbed the milk and leaned him over the sink and pour milk on his eyes. That in itself was pretty traumatic but it did the trick. As I was doing it I assured him that I read it on the Internet. I knew that he believes if its on the Internet it must be true. So he trusted the process and screamed, gasped and whimpered through it until the pain subsided. So thank you Vicki and son. You helped us cope with a crisis. We are extremely grateful!

    • I’m so happy I was able to come to the rescue of your son Jesse. I know all too well the pain he was going through. The milk was like magic to my eyes and obviously your sons. Your description is so vivid I can only imagine the horror he was going through. Who would have ever thought milk would be the cure but it’s ideal even when your stomach is on fire, so they say.

      Thank you for your comments and sharing your story.

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