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Help! My Fingers Are On Fire! How To Cure A Hot Pepper Burn

Submitted by on August 14, 2010 – 8:35 pm 44 Comments
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Hot peppers!

Oh. My. Goodness. Tonight, I totally thought the flesh was going to melt off of my hand. It all started when I was making peach salsa, which called for diced jalapenos. Blissfully unaware of the danger lurking on the cutting board in front of me, I chopped away at the three deceiving peppers.  Nobody had ever warned me to wear gloves when dealing with jalapenos. I had no idea what I was in for.

Not long after I’d chopped the peppers I began feeling a little tingle in my finger. No big deal. But as I continued cooking, the tingling turned to a slight burning. I washed my hands, and kept working away. It wasn’t long, however, before my hand was completely on fire. I was not at a good stopping point though, my peaches were peeled and ready to be chopped before they began turning brown, so I had to keep going.

I dealt with the pain for a while, but pretty soon I was constantly having to plunge my hand into the icy bowl of water I’d used for blanching, seeking temporary relief. Once my salsa was all in the pot and boiling, I was able to take a moment to seek a remedy. I immediately got online and searched for help. (Thanks to all of my Facebook fans who offered their advice!)

Here are the remedies I found, and tried:

  • I soaked my hand in milk for 15 min. Temporary relief for the first 5 minutes, but then the burning came back.
  • I broke an aloe leaf and rubbed the gel onto my hand. Very little relief.
  • I poured vinegar over the burn. Not much help. (Maybe I should have soaked it?)
  • I plunged my hand into the sour cream container. Good for a while, but the burning returned.
  • I rubbed real butter over the pain. A little help, but not for long.
  • I soaked cotton balls with rubbing alcohol and rubbed my hand with them. Not much help.
  • I sprayed my hand with Calamine Lotion. No good.
  • I poured Tecnu all over it, and rubbed it for 2 minutes. (My theory: It removes the oils from poison ivy, so maybe it would remove the jalapeno oils?) No good.
  • I tried rubbing lavender oil on it. Didn’t help.
  • I read that if I ran my hands through my hair it would help. Nope. Jerry just said I looked like a crack head, freaking out rubbing my fingers through my hair. Thanks hunny.
  • Scrubbing with dish soap did not help.
  • I doused my hand with vegetable oil. Not any help.
  • I tried pouring honey over the burns. No luck.
  • I rubbed it with toothpaste. Only made it worse.
  • I rubbed it with a freshly cut onion. Didn’t work either.
  • I poured burn spray stuff on it. No relief.

Can you picture me running through the house trying to find something else to put on my flaming hand? Actually, Jerry was searching the computer calling out remedies as I found all of the ingredients and tried them.

Now, I’m a tough cookie. I can handle pain. But this, this got to almost unbearable. It was the feeling of holding my fingers over an open flame, and leaving them there. Every now and then I had to look down at my hand to make sure my skin wasn’t blistering up. I’m pretty sure these jalapenos were from Satan himself.

The only thing that helped at all was holding my hand in a bag of ice. For three hours I tried to ease the pain. What was even worse is that it can spread to others, so I was afraid to pick up baby Xia. Jerry had to stay home from church to help me with her. He brought me some rubber gloves to put on while I nursed her, but having my hands in those hot gloves only intensified the burning.

I finished up my canning one handed. This salsa better be darn worth it! I muttered under my breath. When I was done in the kitchen I headed back to the computer. As I scoured every article on jalapenos I could find, looking for some advice other than, “Make sure you wear gloves when chopping jalapenos.” Thanks! A lot of good that does me now! And all at once, I finally came across something I hadn’t tried yet.


I shot to the fridge, grabbed the two year old bottle of runny yellow glop, and slathered it on my hand.

Ahhhhh. Instant relief! I couldn’t believe it. I left it on until it dried. After a little while the burning sensation came back, though definitely muted. I touched up my mustard manicure. Three times I rubbed it into my hand, and after about 30 more minutes I washed it all off, and the pain was completely gone!

Mustard!! Oh, how I love you.

So there you have it.

Lesson One: Wear gloves when you chop jalapenos! Every. Single. Time.

Lesson Two: If you were absent during Lesson One, and you are crouching in the corner of your kitchen in agonizing jalapeno misery, try Mustard first.

This is one of those things you will only do once in your life.

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  • Malik Hawkins says:

    Glad I found this. The difference with my situation is, I was downtown on new years eve walking around with some friends and to make a long story short, a group of people started fighting, I was near the brawl, and without ANY warning the police began spraying the 6 or 7 people with mace which is made from pepper extract plus some other torturous chemicals. For those that dont know, mace travels pretty far airborne and its effects have some range to it because it hit me hard! The burning in my hands went from 0-100 that night while I was sleeping and I’ve been in pain all day for new years.

    Anyways I found out that soaking hands in milk, then washing them in cold water with a lot of dawn dish soap, then (hear me out) licking them until they have a coat of saliva on them really worked for me. I blew on them as the saliva dried and the pain was gone. It kind of make sense to me that your saliva is an acid that is made to break down things and it did a pretty good job of breaking down the peppers oils.

  • Pam says:

    Years ago my hands were burned while chopping jalapeños and wearing two pair of gloves. After trying everything in the house and finding some relief with ice, I called my husband at work. Told him I was using the last of the ice and couldn’t drive myself to to ER. He went to the nearest pharmacy and came home with camphorated oil. It is a counter irritant and it worked! Loved to hear about mustard. It is likely that people would have that in their home, but since my event I keep camphorated oil in the medicine cabinet.

  • Claire says:

    Mustard. That was a miracle. I was dying of pain and trying to sleep after a long day of worry. Put on the French’s, then a rubber glove, ice pack,and instant relief. I sleep very well thanks.

  • Anonymous says:

    it actually works!!!!!!!!!

  • linda says:

    The only thing that helped me was urine. And I tried everything else before that. Its a horrible situation to be in and I just want to pass this on to help someone else.

  • Richard says:

    Thanks for the mustard tip. As I read your post I remembered that I had sliced some hot peppers the previous evening. Next time I will wear a glove and I wont’ forget! Best regards.

  • Dee says:

    Also, pepper “juice” can bleed through some latex gloves..just a FYI.

  • Dee says:

    Vanilla extract, it works!!

  • David says:

    I didn’t have any mustard so I tried coconut oil but it didn’t work either. I had some citrus Smirnoff so I figured why not, I poured it on my hand and rubbed my hands like I was washing them and almost instant relief. I rinsed my hands and it’s been 15 minutes and the burning hasn’t returned. I don’t know if it’s the alcohol or the citrus or a combination of the two but I’m just glad the burning is gone.

  • Jarod says:

    Pee! I know it sounds gross but after trying everything anyone has put on the internet from ice to mustard pee is the only thing has given my wife any relief.

  • Anonymous says:

    It’s the turmeric in mustard that is a pain reliever. Also try raw egg! An Indian friend told me about it!!

  • Lisa says:

    Oy my! Thank you so much for posting this! I tried just about everything to get the burning to stop and you were right — mustard did the trick. So very thankful.

  • Pam says:

    I canned Jalapenos for the first time the other day. I didn’t use rubber gloves and paid for it greatly. I tried milk, ketchup, vinegar, toothpaste, mouthwash, yogurt, dish soap, bleach, salt, olive oil, calamine…..all recommended through blogs and posts online. None of which worked. I finally found this post and thought I’d try it. Thank goodness I did. This was awesome! It didn’t get rid of the burn completely, but it lightened the burning a great deal and within a couple of hours all of the burning was gone. Thank you so much!

  • tabatha says:

    I had this happen before and naxzema i know its spelled wrong but it works inztanly n stays gone

  • PJones says:

    Yes! Mustard works! My fingers were on fire from dicing habaneros. I actually removed the seeds with no gloves too! Never again! I also have a high tolerance for pain but this was unbearable. I tried everything: rubbing alcohol, soaking
    my fingers in vinegar (it’s not the vinegar in the mustard that does it), lemons, dish liquid, salt, tomatoes, milk, etc. The mustard made all the difference. The pain significantly subsided, I did one more ice cold milk soak and I could finally sleep. Mustard is the key!

  • Rachel R says:

    I’m so glad to have come across this site. My family members all thought I was retarded holding beer cans or anything cold I can find to relieve the pain of my burning hands. I tried the mustard and it helped a lot but it wasn’t “instant” relief. I wore gloves over my mustard hands for about 15 minutes, and when I took off the gloves and washed my hands with water and dish soap, I realized that the pain was finally mostly gone.

  • Grace says:

    Ramsey says lemon juice. Makes sense when you go out to eat and they give you finger bowls. Just discovered your site and like a good book, I can’t put it down! I know I’m late to the party, but there is still a lot of fun to be had!

  • Jason says:

    I have found that if I take a shower starting with washing my hair that the lather from the shampoo will actually work to break the oils down and wash it away. YMMV

  • Ashlee Logan says:

    Yep. In my case I didn’t believe anything that said to wear gloves, and chopped the peppers bare skinned anyway. Definitely something you only do once! :)

  • Carissa says:

    That happened to me last year. Except I had worn gloves while cutting the jalapenos, then took them off to finish my salsa. I didn’t think about putting them back on when I was washing the cutting board and knife I had used on the jalapenos! Oh I was sorry I didn’t. I tried the the milk remedy, then the honey, vinegar, etc. They only seemed to give relief for a little bit. It’s an awful feeling. Thank you for sharing the mustard remedy. I’ll keep that in mind…just in case!

  • WildernessLover says:

    I found Baking soda and/or Apple Cider Vinegar neutralize this. They took some time but worked. The last time I used Neosporin Burn and Pain cream. It worked the quickest.

  • Dawn says:

    OH thank you so much for this information! I was slicing banana peppers today and almost wore gloves, but I thought “they’re not THAT hot”. I was wrong. Not as hot as jalapenos, of course, but my fingers still felt like they were on fire! The mustard did the trick…I never would have thought of that!

  • Natalie says:

    I did this about two months ago too! I cut a whole box to can, about 15! And it got worse and worse and worse! I tried baking soda paste, milk, orange juice, dawn dish soap to cut the oils, salt scrub, sugar scrub, everything I could find. My hands got inflammed and I ended up having to go to the ER. I felt crazy going in, but my blood pressure was through the roof, so they knew I was hurting. The doctor came in and said it was a first for him. We tried another baking soda soak, and then tried maalox, which made it worse. He ended up just giving me a pain pill for it, I’m not big on pharmaceuticals, but I was willing for this! I took the pill, went to sleep and woke up and it was gone. Glad to know mustard if I ever have a next time. Thanks for the tip!

  • Shaye says:

    I, too, have made this fatal mistake before. The remedy I recommend is smearing your hands with coconut oil. Instant relief :) Hopefully you won’t need to use it, but just in case :)

  • Rachel W. says:

    I have learned not to chop peppers without gloves the hard way, as well. I also learned to be cognizant of what I’m touching with the gloves on! Watch out not only for your eyes, but the poor cats, and trips to the restroom!

    Last night I was going to start a job of canning some salsa, but only had two pairs of gloves left, and realized that I was probably going to be making more than one trip to the restroom, and would not be able to re-don the gloves safely. The salsa will have to wait for tonight when I can get more gloves! :->

    The bonus? Latex-free gloves are covered on the medical Flexible Spending Account, at least through this year, and I have a lot of FSA to burn up! I’m thinking I’ll be stocking up on gloves this fall!

  • Gina says:

    Oh, How I sympathize! Once when I was cutting up hot peppers (with gloves, I had been warned) I happened to touch my eye! I hurt horribly! Wonder if mustard would have helped? Or ruined my eyesight!

    Now, when I make salsa – I cheat. I just measure out some crushed red pepper. So much easier! And NEVER a burn!


  • Emily says:

    I feel your pain! I once was making a chile sauce using dried pasilla chiles. I thought it would be fine to stick my finger into the chile to shake loose the seeds since pasillas are fairly mild. Wrong! The only thing that gave me a little bit of relief was soaking the affected finger in milk and even that didn’t help much. It hurt for days. You can believe I will remember your mustard trick.

  • Amy says:

    I was told by many people to wear gloves while handling jalapenos, including my mother many times, but I have a tendancy to be a bit stubborn. So I still had to learn the hard way. I chopped a peck of them last year and not until I was finished did the burn set in. Yes it was unbearable. I did the same thing you did. Search for a remedy until one finally worked. I soaked in milk but like you said it was a very temporary relief. Washing my hands in rubbing alcohol finally made it stop. It was like a miracle. It is the oil that gets on your skin and until you get it off it burns. So atleast you had the excuse of not knowing. Mine was just stupidity ;)

  • Courtney says:

    I wish I had read this post 2 weeks ago!!! I canned 24 quarts of salsa (and cut all the jalapenos with no gloves)! My fingers burned for 4 days … ugh! I’m sorry you had to endure pepper pain … but thanks for sharing your lesson with us!

  • Dana says:

    Oh you poor thing, glad you finally found some relief!!

  • Angie says:

    Mark that one as a lesson learn the hard way.I learned the hard way many years ago when I chopped two quarts of peppers without gloves. I finally had to sleep off the burn. If you chop enough peppers routinely in cooking you get to the point that you won’t feel the burn. Now I can chop a couple dozen and only have the tingle, no burn.

  • Denise says:

    I would never have guessed mustard would help! When our son was about 5 months old, my husband picked him up after eating a fresh habanero. (You think jalapenos are hot? Get your hands on a habanero if you REALLY want hot!) Poor David was trying to get out of his skin! He suffered so long, and he even had burn marks on his skin! Sure wish we’d have known to put mustard on it!

  • Chantel says:

    Oh Kendra,
    You are so entertaining. You do such a good job of painting a picture of your misadventures and educating us at the same time!

    On a side note, I have been thinking of making some salsa with my overabundance of tomatoes and it never occurred to me to use gloves for jalapenos! Thank you for saving me the pain!!

  • Lanna says:

    Heh. Never would’ve thought of mustard. Usually tumeric is more of a dye/coloring though, so who knows. Having a box of nitrile gloves in the pantry is definitely handy though… ;)

  • Megan says:

    Well next time, to save you time and stained finger nails, just SOAK your hands in vinegar. It’s not the most pleasant smelling, but neither is mustard. The reason the mustard works is because of the vinegar in it. If you prefer being able to take your hands out of the bowl, etc. of vinegar, mustard is a good option, but it’s the miracle of vinegar that saved your poor little fingers. If I’m using jalapenos and don’t have latex gloves on hand, I make as few cuts as possible and always keep them skin side up. It’s harder on the knife but it saves my fingers. I never do enough to make it too painful but the second it gets under my nails I start cringing. Glad you found some relief! Hope you’re feeling better and that your salsa really is worth it!

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