Yesterday at work I was chopping jalapenos for our chili; two pounds, to be exact, which is about 30 or so peppers. Maybe I was just being lazy, or maybe my memory is just worse than I thought, but I broke my cardinal rule of jalapeno-chopping, which is always, always, ALWAYS!! wear gloves whenever you chop more than about 3 of them. Four or five, tops. The reason that is my cardinal rule is not because I forgot one time and rubbed my eyes or used the bathroom aftewards; I'm not that absent-minded. But because I've done this before and found out the hard way that handling lots of chopped hot peppers will really irritate your skin. Yes, even your hands. Except that it's not as immediate as rubbing your eyes afterwards. It can take up to an hour, or even more, to start. Which is what happened with me. I didn't even really have much contact with the peppers- just lightly holding down a pile of them, pushing them towards the knife. That's it. I think in this case it was about a half-hour later that my left hand started burning. Really burning. I think I could have lit peoples' cigarettes with my fingertips. It was bad. It got to where I couldn't go 30 seconds without sticking my hand in cold water. 30 seconds of ice water, 30 seconds of air. Then repeat. Again and again. And again. I knew from past experience that this was going to go on for a really long time. Not really practical, y'know? Anyway, there is a point to all this. Most of the guys I work with are Mexican and whenever they get a burn, they always put mustard on it. I vaguely remember trying it once a long time ago and not noticing much of a difference, but I figured I didn't have anything to lose this time. So I grabbed the jar and covered my hand with it completely. Mmm, tasty, yellow mustard-coverd hand! I guess a mustard-covered hand probably isn't much more practical than sticking it in ice-water every 30 seconds, but y'know what? It actually worked. It still burned some, but it was bearable. Not like before where it felt like I had coated my hand with super-industrial-strength IcyHot. I suspect it's actually the vinegar in the mustard that does it, but I'm not sure why. (Time to watch Fight Club again, I guess.) One of the guys told me that lemon juice and tomato juice work too. Again, with the acids. And I'm sure they do work as well, but mustard has the advantage of actually staying put. Which means you can also play jokes on people with it (assuming it was your hand that you burned); like say, offer to shake their hand. Or slap them on the back. Or just talk about how weird it is that only your hand has jaundice. Or whatever.
Anyway, learn from my pain. Always wear gloves when chopping more than a few hot peppers.