This is a question that comes up regularly, and for good reasons! Anyone who has been in contact with chilli peppers and accidentally rubbed their eyes will remember the immense pain they felt as the burning sensation takes over your melting eyes.
But will hot sauce actually make you blind?
The answer is no, well at least not in reasonable amounts.
The Investigative ophtalmology & visual science journal has studied the effects of oleoresin - the molecule responsible for the burning sensation in chillies - on your eyes and have found that while it will cause extreme irritation and a burning sensation, there is no proof on long-term damage to the eye, and more specifically to the protective corneal tissue. This is good news considering capsaicin is used in pepper spray!
Prolonged or repeated exposure may cause negative long-term effects, but no one has found the courage to undergo the testing for obvious reasons.
- If you handle, cut, mash or slice chilli peppers, make sure you wear protective gloves. If this sounds too overkill for you, then bear hands are still okay but make sure you wash them multiple times. The capsaicin present on your skin will last a long time before it is completely safe.
- If hot sauce somehow makes its way to your eyes, do not press or rub your eyes, ESPECIALLY if that hand has been in contact with hot sauce or capsaicin.
Instead, pout your eye under the water tap and flush lukewarm water onto it for 15-30 minutes until the burning sensation dissipates. You can also use a saline solution for this.
- If that does not work or doesn't work well enough, you can pour some milk into your eye as it will neutralize the capsaicin effect. But make sure you rinse your eye from the milk afterwards.
- If this still doesn't work or if the case is too extreme, please contact your local poison control centre who will provide the best advice on how to deal with the situation. Most centres have a 24/7 hot line to answer emergency calls.
Stay safe but enjoy the chilli burn!