Did you know that the Red Hot Chili Peppers sang Give It Away to spread awareness about phantom pain caused by a chili pepper compound? You shouldn’t have because it’s not true. The chemical compound known as Capsaicin, which is in the fruit of plants within the same family (i.e red chili peppers, jalapeños, and habaneros), is colorless, odorless, and binds to pain receptors and causing phantom heat and burning. Other names for this are hot pepper hands, jalapeño hands, jalapeño thumb, and Hunan hand syndrome.
Capsaicin is hydrophobic and is water-insoluble, so rinsing your hands will not provide any relief but using something with oil, alcohol, or milk will. Milk has casein, which is a fatty protein that washes away capsaicin molecules the same way soap washes away grease and oil – This is likely the reason why people tell you to drink milk when your food is too spicy. The pain can last hours depending on how much you get on your hands and is one of the top plant-related exposure reported to poison centers. So anytime you involve yourself with peppers that aren’t the Red Hot Chili Peppers, wear gloves.