Thursday, February 23, 2006

Please check your guns and chilis at the door...

Yesterday, in between Yousuf highlighting our ceramic-tiled floor yellow, and me chasing a cockroach around the kitchen to Yousuf’s howling laughter, there was a slight “incident”, to quote the Israeli Army, which I call the chili pepper incident.

Now before I continue, I should explain something. Gaza’s famed green chilies are hot. And I don’t mean eye-watering hot. I mean take-one-whiff and you’ll feel nauseous hot.

So, to get back to my story. My mother inadvertently forgot one chili pepper on the kitchen counter that I was supposed to use that morning in an omelet-which I didn’t because the prospect of eating a nauseating omelet that likewise made me cry like a baby did not sound so appealing.

Instead, Yousuf got a hold of the chili, and as is his habit with all things raw, began to poke and prod at it, rubbing it, tearing it apart. Until he finally tired of the game. And then, slowly, the fiery vapors of capsicum began to make their way to his nostrils. Then came the inevitable eye rub. And the wails. Oh the wails.

I was so hysterical I thought the poor child had gone temporarily blind. He eyes looked crossed and extremely swollen and red and he couldn’t stop crying. For 30 minutes straight. No amount of water-flushing would sooth him-I don’t care what the books say.

In the end, he was ok, but he developed a very mild case of what’s known as a subconjunctival hemorrhage-basically a ruptured blood vessel in his eye, which heals in a matter of weeks.

After seeing him in so much pain from such a seemingly benign household vegetable (is a chili even a vegetable?) I was curious, and decided to Google “subconjunctival hemorrhage” and “exposure to chili pepper”. Apparently, chilies, or to be more exact, capsicum, is used by law enforcers in the state of Arizona as a non-lethal (but OH so painful) means of temporarily disabling someone who is a perceived threat to the officer.

I also discovered that the Los Angeles department of health services includes chili in its terrorism first aid manual (“Terrorism Agent Information and Treatment Guidelines for Hospitals and Clinicians”). Believe it or not chili is listed as a chemical weapon! Also known as Oleoresin Capsicum, it is right up there with Nerve and Mustard agents in a table discussing antidote therapies for “Chemical Weapons attacks.”

And you thought you couldn’t learn anything you didn’t already know on my Blog! Perhaps next time there’s an election, the sign in front of the polling center advising voters to check their cell phones, cigarettes, and guns, should also include chilies.

I always had a hunch those Gaza chilies were dangerous. But who knew?


Blogger Low Flying Angel said...

Poor Yousuf. Hope he feels better soon.

8:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, I am an American and 'pepper spray' is a very popular self-defense weapon in the United States. It is used by civilians as well as law enforcement. They even have specially formulated pepper sprays for deterring aggressive dogs.

Pepper spray has, over the years, gradually supplanted the use of 'Mace', a synthetic chemical for this purpose.!111&keyword=mace

They even have a 'pepper foam' which is said to be particularly nasty:

3:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I should mention also that I was briefly in the American military. During US Army and Marine Corps basic training they send you into a closed gas chamber and expose you briefly to CS tear gas. That was probably one of the most unpleasant experiences I have ever had. You feel as though your eyes, lungs and skin were literally on fire, you become extremely nauseous and people with congested sinuses quickly find that they have streams of snot a foot long hanging from their noses.

3:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two things: You might have tried flushing his eyes with milk... Having lived quite some time in the southeast of the United States I found that flushing a chilie infected area with milk brought some relief.
Also, I recently read that the active ingredient in chilies grown in the mideast, when injected into the spinal column of a patient in severe pain, alleviates that pain by "killing" the nerve through neutralizing the calcium (or some such thing) in the nerve tissue thereby offering relief to the patient. This seems to me, a layman, to go hand in glove with the idea of flushing an infected area with milk (calcium).
Also, and I am sure this is an old wives tale, if you wash your hands while holding a piece of metal (like a metal pancake flipper) it will wash away the active ingredient of garlic and chilie.

7:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having lived quite some time in the southeast of the United States

I lived in the southwest... New Mexico, home of the Hatch chilie!

7:13 PM  
Blogger Laila said...

My husband actually lived in Santa Fe for some time, way back when he studied highschool there. ALways wanted to visit-says its beautiful! I also lived in North Carolina-though I must say their version of "hot" is laughable in comparison to ours, :) .

Thanks for all the info-very fasinating I must say. Oddly enough-I actually did try the milk suggestion before you had mentioned it and it did help a little (though in this case, it was breast milk.) Though I haven't tried the holding-metal suggstoin, I'll be sure to test it next time this happens (which I hope is never!!)

7:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I actually learned the "holding a pancake flipper" thing from a show by Martha Stewart!

7:25 PM  
Blogger Anonymous Me said...

Ow, ow, ow - it hurts just to think about it. Poor Yousuf!

10:18 PM  
Blogger Mad Canuck said...

Hey Laila,

Pepper spray is used by police forces all over the US, Canada, Britain, and several other countries. It's popular because it's non-lethal, doesn't cause any permanent damage, but can temporarily disable a violent suspect. They also make big fire-extinguisher sized containers of it for use in riot control.

Pepper spray is actually concentrated capiscum extract, made from real chili peppers.

One of my friends at work is an auxiliary police officer, and I remember him describing the training they went through, where they had to pepper-spray each other. He was amazed at how effective it is to immobilize someone - for half an hour, he was in total agony and he couldn't open his eyes.

6:46 AM  
Blogger أبو سنان said...

Maskeen, glad he got over it okay.

7:28 PM  
Blogger jarvenpa said...

Poor baby! And poor mama (I too get hysterical when my children are hurt or crying or in trouble). Yes, here in the redwood forest area of California where I live there was a famous use of pepper spray (made from your sort of hot, hot pepper), applied directly to the eyes of four young girls who were nonviolently protesting the cutting of the forests (they were around 16 years old at the time). They had chained themselves together in the office of a local political person. The police took cotton swabs and put the substance in their eyes as they screamed. And the police video taped it (big mistake on their parts). Much outrage, and lawsuits. (the young protestors won, eventually).

10:46 PM  

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