Jalapenos are deliciously fiery atop your nachos but get a touch of the hot pepper’s juices in your eye, and you’re in for a world of hurt.
These peppers add a kick in the kitchen, but they must be handled carefully. Otherwise, your hands, or worse, your eyes could be burning.
Capsaicin is the Culprit
Like all peppers, Jalapenos get their fiery flavor from capsaicin, an oily alkaloid that gives peppers their level of heat and their health benefits, Healthline reports.
Jalapenos are low in calories, with only 26 calories in a cup of them if you can eat that many. They also pack plenty of fiber, vitamin C, and vitamin B6. The capsaicin in jalapenos can also boost metabolism and help burn calories. Studies show that capsaicin has cancer-fighting properties.
As the main ingredient in a jalapeno popper, jalapeno peppers have a tasty heat. Let that capsaicin get on your fingers, and your hands will burn uncomfortably.
Touch your eyes with capsaicin-coated fingers, and your eyes will burn painfully and tear up due to jalapeno oil in your eyes. Keep in mind that capsaicin is also used to make pepper spray.
Getting jalapeno pepper juice in the eyes is a mistake that will burn in your memory.
Originated in Mexico, jalapenos are popular worldwide for their level of heat, which comes in at hot, but not too hot.
“Jalapeno” is Spanish for “Jalapa,” or “Xalapa,” the capital of the Mexican state of Veracruz. Chipotle peppers are jalapenos that have been smoked.
Among hot peppers, jalapenos are easily America’s favorite. Most jalapenos grown commercially in the United States come from farms in Texas, New Mexico, and California. The hot peppers are easy to grow in home gardens, with each plant producing as many as 30 to 40 peppers during a season.
Low on the Scoville Scale
Jalapenos are spicy, but there are much more fiery peppers. On the Scoville Scale, a measurement of peppers’ differing heat levels, jalapeno peppers have about 2,500 to 8,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHUs).
To put that in context, a mild poblano pepper has an SHU of 1,000 to 1,500, Pepperscale.com reports. Ghost peppers, which are on the super-hot peppers’ milder side, can have more than 1 million SHUs.
Protect Your Hands
The best way to treat jalapeno juice in eye areas is to keep this accident from happening. Put on a pair of nitrile gloves when cutting jalapenos or any hot peppers, and don’t touch your face.
Carefully discard gloves after using, as getting the capsaicin off them is difficult. Then, for good measure, wash your hands thoroughly and avoid touching your face.
Wash Your Hands
If you have carelessly cut into jalapenos and then touched the skin in and around your eye, you’ll quickly realize the error of your ways. “How to get jalapeno out of eyes” might be the first thing you search online.
The first step to remedy this is to not make it worse by rubbing your eyes with those same hands, as there is probably more capsaicin on them.
Remove gloves if you were wearing them. Wash your hands using liquid soap, as you might leave traces of capsaicin on bar soap. Dishwashing liquid is an even better choice, as it is a detergent formulated to break down oils such as capsaicin.
Once your hands are clean, get milk from the refrigerator and soak your hands in a bowl of it to remove any capsaicin you might have missed.
Then, soak a paper towel in milk and dab around the eye area. Once the pain begins to subside, a drop or two of milk in the eye may help. Then, with a fresh milk-soaked paper towel, pat the eye area again.
The reason milk works so well is that milk is slightly acidic and breaks down the jalapeno juice in eyes. Water, on the other hand, doesn’t help because the capsaicin oils repel it.
Consider donning a set of protective goggles to keep your eyes protected when working with fresh jalapenos or other hot peppers. Most jalapeno in eye accidents happen when the eye area is touched with fingers coated with capsaicin. Still, jalapeno juice can shoot into the eye when a pepper is cut.
If eating out, try to avoid touching jalapenos. Top nachos with jalapenos loaded on by fork instead of with your fingers.
Contact Lens Care
Don’t try removing your contact lenses if you’ve touched jalapenos.
Picking up a slice or two of jalapeno pepper to enjoy during dinner, not washing hands thoroughly, and then taking out contact lenses for the night could leave you with a painful surprise in the morning.
Since soft contact lenses are porous, removing them with capsaicin on your fingers will transfer the oil into the lenses. When you put in your contacts in the morning, the heat from the jalapeno oil will be apparent.
To remedy this, soak soft contacts in clean lens solution. Hard contacts, which are not porous, are easier to clean.
Some Like It Hot
Hot peppers have plenty of aficionados, and jalapenos have a home in everything from guacamole to a spicy Margarita. Enjoying these hot peppers adds health benefits as well as a kick to cooking, but care must be taken when preparing and eating jalapenos.
Letting their jalapeno juice get on your hands and into your eyes can leave your eyes irritated and inflamed.
Thoroughly cleaning hands with a detergent that will break down the jalapeno oil in eyes and then dabbing the eye area with milk will quickly relieve the intense pain, so make sure you have milk on hand before working with peppers.
A better idea is to wear gloves when cutting peppers for your next batch of mango salsa. Use a fork when topping your dinner with jalapenos. Just to be safe, keep your hands away from eyes!