“Don’t Use Water To Wash Hands” If You Have Chilli Burns, Warns Doctor


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Have you ever handled chillies like cutting them or getting the seeds out while prepping to cook?

If you have, you might notice the burning sensation on your fingers that leaves you frantically in pain right after or hours after handling them. Another bonus is when you accidentally touch your eyes. Whoopsie, NOT fun.

Dr Kamarul Ariffin Nor Sadan explains the science behind this pain and how to deal with it with home remedies. Dr Kamarul, who is also on Twitter as @dr_chaku, has answered the well-known problem among those who handle chillies with their bare hands and suffering from the aftermath.

Why Do We Feel Pain After Handling Peppers?

Why do we have that afterburn pain on our hands when we prep chillies? Or in our mouths when we eat them?

READ MORE: 3x Spicy Fried Chicken Allegedly Lands Malaysian In Hospital With Severe Stomach Pain

This is because chillies contain a component called capsaicin. Our hands and mouth will feel the burn because this component will stimulate the pain receptors in our body that responds to heat.

The capsaicin glands are the ones that we need to be careful of.
Credit: Birdhouse Chillies

When capsaicin comes into contact with our fingers which has a lot of free nerve endings, this triggers the pain receptors which causes the sensation of intense heat or burning.

It doesn’t necessarily cause damage to your skin like a heat or chemical burn, it just triggers our body’s pain receptors.

READ MORE: Are Malaysians Who Crave Spicy Food A Glutton For Punishment?

How To Make The Pain Go Away?

Capsaicin is a hydrophobic, colourless and odourless compound that doesn’t dissolve in water and has oil like qualities.

This means that it repels water, hence, throwing your hands under running water does no good or could make it worse (it’ll spread the capsaicin around more pain receptors and amp up the burning sensation).

However, capsaicin can dissolve in oil or fat. That is why Dr Kamarul suggests using these remedies.

1. Milk

The fats in milk can help break down the oil properties of capsaicin and provide some relief.

Credit: Freepik

Milk has a protein called casein. Casein molecules attract capsaicin molecules. It will break off the bond between capsaicin and the receptors in our skin.

After dipping out hands in milk or pouring it over with, wash those off with soapy water.

2. Oil

Pouring away your milk does seem a bit of a waste, right?

You can also use oil as capsaicin is soluble in oil. You can try scrubbing your hands with some cooking oil to relieve the pain.

Credit: Pexels

After that, you should also wash it off with soap and water.

3. Vinegar

Capsaicin is alkaline, so theoretically, acidic substances can neutralise or weaken its effects.

You can soak your hands in a mixture of vinegar and water for around 15 minutes.

Credit: Freepik

Alternatively, you can also use acidic beverages containing lemon, lime, or pineapple. Tomato sauce or tamarind water could also help.

4. Alcohol

Capsaicin can also be dissolved by alcohol.

Hence you can use hand sanitisers that are alcohol-based to cool down the burn. However, you would need a lot of those sanitisers as only high amounts of alcohol can aid to absorb the capsaicin burn.

Credit: Freepik

You can also try dipping your hand in high-proof alcohol (like vodka for those who have them) or rubbing alcohol (solvent that breaks up oil) on the skin in liberal amounts too.

5. Lotion

You can use a lotion that is oil-based to dissolve capsaicin.

Afterwards, wash it off with soapy water to eliminate the capsaicin-tainted lotion.

Credit: Freepik

Other than using certain ingredients, Dr Kamarul said that capsaicin can also be removed with friction. You would have to rub your hands with a towel, brush, salt or grated coconut pulp.

READ MORE: How to fix that fiery burn after eating spicy foods

See his full thread here.

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