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What to Do if You Get Jalapeño Pepper in Your Eyes

Jalapeño peppers are great for an exciting and spicy dinner but cooking with jalapeños can get dicey. One wrong move, and you can end up getting the pepper juice on your hands or worse, in your eyes. The burn of hot pepper in your eye is excruciating and can last a while if it’s not dealt with properly. But how do you get rid of the burning sensation without damaging your eye?

If you get Jalapeño in your eye, flush out the infected area with milk. You can soak a rag or cotton ball in milk and hold it to your eye instead, if that’s more comfortable. If you don’t have milk, you could use water instead, but it is not as effective in flushing out the pepper oil as milk.

This article will give you a step-by-step guide for what to do if you get Jalapeño pepper juice in your eye. We will also talk about which liquids you can safely use in your eye and how peppers can damage your eyes or skin. 

Photo by Spicy Trio

If even the tiniest amount of Jalapeño pepper juice or oil gets in your eye, you will experience an extreme burning and stinging sensation. It can feel like you’re going blind, and your eye will water a lot to try and get the foreign substance out.

However, there are simple ways to relieve the stinging sensation and get the peppers’ capsaicin-packed oil out of your eye.

A Step-by-Step Guide on What to do if You Get Jalapeño Pepper Oil in Your Eye

Infographic created by Spicy Trio highlighting 3 steps to relieve jalapeño pepper eye burn
Infographic displaying 3 steps to relieve jalapeño pepper eye burn. Created by Spicy Trio, feel free to share or use but please link back to us.

If you get Jalapeño pepper oil in your eye, this is the quickest and most common process to relieve the pain:

Wash your hands

If you have been cutting peppers, you might still have some oils on your hands. Wash your hands thoroughly using dish soap (which will dissolve the pepper oil) if you can. DO NOT rub your eyes—this will only move the oil around and increase the burning sensation.

Get the milk

Regular cow’s milk (whole, 2, or 1 percent) will alleviate the burn and neutralize the pepper oil. Skim milk will not work as well since it has no fat. You could also use baby shampoo, but it will not give you relief as quickly.

Flush out your eye with milk

Fill a small cup of milk and gently pour it over your open eye (it feels strange, but it will help relieve the pain). It’s best to do this over a sink or somewhere easy to clean up because it is messy.

You can also soak a rag, paper towel, or cotton ball in milk and hold it to your eye as a compress. This method could be more comfortable for you but is less effective than directly flushing your eye with milk. If it is still stinging after you have applied milk to your eye, a saline solution (normally used for contact lenses) could help flush out the rest of the pepper oils.

Photo of milk being poured into a glass with a green natured back drop
Photo by Valentyn75

What Liquids Can You Safely Use to Flush Jalapeño Burns from Your Eye?

Jalapeño peppers are spicy and delicious largely because of the presence of capsaicin, the chemical that causes a burning sensation on your tongue (and unfortunately, your eyes as well if they come in to contact!). The reason milk works so well to combat this burning sensation is that milk has fat, and capsaicin is soluble in fat. This is why chugging milk after you’ve eaten a spicy pepper also helps to reduce the burn in your mouth.

It would make sense that other fatty liquids would dissolve the spicy burn, but it is essential to know what is safe to put in your eye. For a Jalapeño burn on your hands or skin, you can use olive oil, aloe vera, apple cider vinegar, baking soda, or lemon juice as alternatives to dairy. However, for your eye, the list gets a little smaller.

Vinegar, aloe, and lemon or lime juice are not safe as they could damage the surface of your eye. The acidity in each of these will combat the pepper oil and cause a different (albeit less painful) stinging. If left in your eye, any of these could cause surface irritation or damage.

Although milk is the quickest and least irritating way to flush out your eye, you can also safely use a saline solution like that used for contact lenses, but it will not be as effective. Baby shampoo will also work well but not everyone has baby shampoo in their home.

Of course, cool, plain, clean water is also an option, although it is not as effective as milk.

How Long Will the Jalapeño Pepper Eye Burn Last?

You can get almost immediate relief from Jalapeño pepper eye burn if you apply milk or baby shampoo directly to your eye after washing your hands well. The burning sensation should go away because the milk’s fat has dissolved the pepper’s active components. It might still be a little while until your eye stops watering, but the milk will neutralize the pepper oil, and the pain will be gone almost instantly.

If you do not use this treatment, it could take many eye flushes with water to release all the oils from your eye. The burning sensation could last up to 24 hours or more and get more intense as the oils settle into your eye. A less effective treatment, such as a cold-water compress, will give you temporary relief, but the stinging will come back unless you successfully flush out the pepper oil from your eyes.

Photo of a irritated red eye, with blue pupil, close up
Photo by Daria Amoseeva

Can the Burn from Jalapeños Damage Your Eyes?

Getting a bit of pepper oil in your eye can hurt terribly, but it shouldn’t give you long-term eye damage, especially if you flush it out properly and quickly. Eye damage associated with peppers generally comes from pepper spray, which works in combination with alcohol and other damaging substances.

Jalapeño pepper oil will not give you long-term eye damage, but it is still vital to flush it out with a safe liquid as soon as possible and not rub your eyes. Rubbing your eye will only push the oils around and cause more pain, but it could also be the cause of some damage if left untreated.

Even if you do leave your eye unwashed, the odds of getting any permanent damage to your cornea (the surface of your eyeball) is still minimal. Washing your hands well and flushing your eye out with milk will give the best results and relieve you of pain or potential for eye injury.

Can You Go Blind from Jalapeño Peppers or Other Peppers Burning Your Eye?

Unless you have a severe allergic reaction to the pepper oil, or are repeatedly jamming entire peppers into your eye, you will certainly not go blind from getting oils from a spicy pepper burning your eye. The discomfort might be intense, and it might feel as though you are blinded, but the pain will go away, and your vision will return to normal.

If you have an allergy to peppers, getting pepper oil in your eye could cause permanent damage, especially if you do not flush it out and take allergy medication as soon as possible. Depending on the amount of pepper oil and the length of time in your eye, blindness could be a remote possibility. It is still not likely, but it is better to use extra caution with known allergens.

Other than severe allergies, the only way you could go blind from pepper oil in your eye is by repeated exposure, lack of care, and bacterial infection. If you were to put pepper oil in your eye, rub it in further, and try to get it out with unclean substances or more acidic liquids, you have a chance of going blind. Essentially, you would have to be intentionally trying to blind yourself with pepper oil and improper care.

Closing Thoughts

If you have had the miserable experience of accidentally putting Jalapeño pepper oil in your eye, don’t be afraid to reach for the milk! Please wash your hands, flush your eye out well with milk, and remember that it is painful but not permanent. Don’t let this experience scare you from Jalapeños—just be careful when you’re using them!