How to Handle Hot Peppers

Love challenging your taste buds to new levels of spicy? Make sure you're adding spice to the recipe and not your eyes! Different peppers–like habaneros, serranos and jalapeños–pack different heat levels created by an active ingredient called capsaicin. While delicious in your taco or enchilada, capsaicin can have some serious consequences if the chemical irritates your skin or gets transferred into your eyes. It can cause severe pain, redness and irritation.

Sliced Jalapeños

How to Handle Hot Peppers

The best option is to wear latex or nitrile gloves if you have them. If you don't, here are some tips on how to cook with hot peppers safely and how to treat pepper-affected skin:

  • If your hands already are burning from touching peppers, try soaking the skin in warm water, vegetable oil, diluted vinegar, or antacids (like Maalox®) to stop the irritation.
  • Most importantly, remember to thoroughly wash your hands and any tools you may have used for preparation with warm, soapy water after use.
  • And last but not least, always do everything possible to avoid touching your eyes and other sensitive areas!
  • Have more questions about how to treat a reaction to capsaicin? Visit and/or the poison control hotline: 1-800-222-1222.

If you're looking for relatively risk-free pepper recipes, try these tasty and mild dishes: