Friday, July 16, 2010
In order to understand how a relatively intelligent girl (like myself) could be so ridiculously stupid, there are two things you need to know before proceeding.

1-I love to cook.
2-I hate spicy things.

Dangerously delicious? Or deliciously dangerous?

So when I set about making 30 jalapeno poppers for a BBQ at our new place, I had no idea what I was doing. I bought fresh jalapenos, washed them, set the cream cheese out on the counter to soften, and got to deseeding the peppers. I cut out the middle seedy parts, and sliced them in half. About a third of the way through stuffing the halves with my cream cheese mixture, I felt a burning on my ring finger. I thought maybe I'd just had a paper cut I didn't know about. A la lemon juice paper cut detection.

Pictured: Not the preferred method for discovering wounds

About ten more poppers down the road, my thumb started to burn as well. I finished putting the cream cheese in the peppers, but paused before wrapping them in bacon to wash my hands. I figured I should get the oil out of the invisible little cuts I had by washing my hands. In hindsight, this was my first mistake.

Within twenty minutes, the heat was spreading to my fingertips and intensifying. I realized something was very wrong. I assumed my allergy to bell peppers might be a factor in my sensitivity to the jalapenos. I googled 'jalapeno burns' and found only other people asking if it was possible to get burned from the oil in the peppers. I tried washing my hands a few more times, finding temporary relief in the cool water.

After another twenty minutes, I realized that it was only going to get worse as time passed. Now all five fingers on my left hand hurt, as well as most of my palm, and the fingertips on my right hand had just started to warm unpleasantly. I grabbed a cold beer from the fridge, and held it in my left hand while I googled again with my right hand. This time 'home remedy jalapeno burn', and came back with pages and pages of results.

It seemed that most people recommended baking soda paste, while some recommended soaking your afflicted areas in vinegar or milk or yogurt. I tried vinegar first, with no relief. I washed my hands again, then tried the baking soda paste. It relieved the burning a little while it was in the paste, but taking it out of the bowl only brought the pain right back. I didn't let it dry into a thicker paste, as it felt like it only trapped the heat in my skin and intensified it.

The catch-22 of this situation is that in order to try some new remedy, I had to wash my hands, which only made the burning worse ten minutes later. I unfortunately lost my appetite (which was terrible, because everything Boyfriend and the new Roomie were cooking smelled amazing), but still forced myself to have a brat, so I could take some pain medication. I took five Advil liqui-gels, with two beers, which shows you how much I was hurting. Two hours in, it felt like I had put my hands on the stove.

This is what I felt like.

There were other things I began to try. Dawn soap: nope. Sugar scrub: nope. Oil absorbing clay facial mask: nope. Soaking in milk: nope. Thicker baking soda paste: nope. I found a bit of relief from hand sanitizer, just enough to finish reading the home remedy search results. I read stories of people that had accidentally touched their eyes or nose, and all I could think was how grateful I was that I hadn't done these things. I would have lost the last little bit of composure that remained and been a whimpering lump on the floor. I would have looked like this;

Finally I stumbled across someone who said the nurse at the hospital she went to for her burns rubbed her hands in hydrogen peroxide, and followed it up with hydro-cortisone cream. A few other people swore by rubbing alcohol. Unfortunately, of the three, I only had hydrogen peroxide. By this point I was so nauseated from the pain (the Advil wasn't touching it) that Boyfriend was starting to notice that this was actually a problem. (That high pain tolerance has always made it difficult for loved ones to realize how badly I'm injured. Like the time I cut off the tip of my thumb, but mom didn't realize she needed to take me to the ER for twenty minutes.) He'd seen me trying different solutions, but I'd been so quiet about it all, and he'd been so preoccupied with manning the grill, that he didn't realize it was causing me actual pain. He took one look at my face, and asked if there was anything he could do. It'd been almost four hours at this point, and I'd already looked up hundreds of comments, and tried most of them. I decided right then I was going to walk to the Walgreen's on the corner and buy myself a damn bottle of rubbing alcohol. Before I left, I gave in and took one more Advil, and one of the Darvocets I had left over from the Kidney Stone incident in April.

On a side note; Poor Boyfriend! Both times I've been 'ill' since we got together, he's been unable to do anything to make me feel better. All he can really offer is comfort, which I appreciate, but I know he wishes he could do more. He got a stomach bug on tour, and it drove me crazy that all I could do was rub his back or hold his hair or offer him Gatorade. Eventually I'll get the Flu (or, knowing me, Bronchitis or Pneumonia) and then he can make me soup and cover me in blankets and bring me hot tea with lemon. You know you've got it bad for someone when getting sick is romanticized. Jeez...

But back to the story... Before I took off for the pharmacy, I grabbed my bottle of hydrogen peroxide, poured a little bit into my cupped palm, and rubbed it all over both hands. Instantly, I felt better. With my hands still damp (and doing that annoying, half itchy, half painful peroxide fizz thing) I held them in front of the fan in the front room. Sweet, sweet relief. I waited, sure it would be just as momentary as the other solutions had been. This one, however, gave me about ten minutes of relief. Just enough time for me to get down to Walgreen's, find the rubbing alcohol and purchase it. The burning was just beginning to return when I tore open the bottle outside the automatic door. I poured a little into my palm, and rubbed it around. Amazing.

I made it all the way home without having to use it again. After five minutes, however, it was coming back. It was greatly lessened, however. So begun the 90 minutes of alternating between peroxide and alcohol, all the while blowing on them or holding them in front of a fan. By this point, Boyfriend and I had been up for almost 24 hours. All that was keeping me awake was the pain, because god knows the chemical cocktail I concocted for myself was designed to take down a barn animal. After the peroxide had made my skin stingy and patchy and white (still preferable to being engulfed by invisible flames) I switched to simply soaking my poor hands in rubbing alcohol.

Finally, after six hours, my hands were cool enough that I could sleep. I had to have Boyfriend help me undress and get into pj's, because my poor little hands were bright pink, with little red sores on the fingers of my left hand. They were completely useless.

I woke about six hours later, when I rolled over in my sleep and put my hand on Boyfriend's bare chest. It felt like he was on fire. While my hands felt fine while they were held useless in front of me, if I touched anything, especially warm things like Boyfriend or my own body, it burned. Still! I was starving, since all I'd had to eat the day before was one damn brat, I decided I deserved a treat. After all I'd been through the day before, it only seemed fitting to reward myself for coming out sane and sans Urgent Care trip.

So I had ice cream for breakfast. Even then, it was a small consolation.

The weirdest part of the aftermath? My fingernails. The beds of my fingernails were all tender. Each one felt as though I'd smashed the tip with a poorly aimed hammer or a slammed car door. I didn't realize how often I reach over and scratch Boyfriend's back, or how often your fingernails are of use (buttons, zippers, opening anything), until I couldn't do anything with them. The skin on my hands (particularly the left) looked thin and shiny. They also felt ridiculously soft. I don't really want to repeat the chemical peel I gave myself for it, though. My skin looked and felt better after a two days. My fingernails, however, took four. And the moral of the story? Gloves. Gloves, gloves, gloves.


Jinxie G said...

Especially if you're moderating comments!!!

Jinxie G said...

Dork! JalapeƱos are peppers, Miss Allergic-to-Peppers!

I actually think I had an allergic reaction to something last night, but have yet to figure out what it was. Was in bed by 3am, and you KNOW how early that is for me! lol

Glad you finally got some relief. Ouch!

And take the damn word verification off. It's annoying! lol

Unknown said...

At least your experience can be a lesson for us all about slicing fresh jalapenos. Yikes.

Now we know why pepper spray is so highly effective.

I shall remember to add this to list of things I hate having on my hands.

I have a number of things on this list that I already wear gloves for.

Sara Louise said...

Sweet lord! That's a horrible story. But your doodles made me chuckle :-)

Kell said...

Ouch, been there. I also love to cook and also hate spicy food, so the first time I chopped up a green chili, I was one thousand percent certain that I was going to die.

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During this course of study, you will come to learn much about the strange eating, sleeping and mating habits of the Instrospective Lori under stress. We will observe as she moves halfway across the country to start a life with her own Captain Wentworth, takes a year off of work to pursue a writing career, and incessantly references Jane Austen.
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