Sunday, 21 December 2008

The Danger of Cooking: Contact Dermatitis

Starter at last night's pre-Christmas Christmas dinner was butternut squash soup. I've cooked butternut squash a number of times before, but usually only had to peel one small squash to feed two people. Last night I peeled four squashes to make the soup and that was a problem.

After having peeled and chopped the first squash I noticed that my right hand felt a bit funny. Being left handed I'd held the squash with my right hand. I just assumed it was the juice/sap, that oozes out when the squash is cooked, sticking to my hand. I washed my hands and then cut the third squash, washed my hands again, and then cut up the final squash. By this point my hand was really uncomfortable. All the skin on my fingers and thumb felt tight, almost as if I'd spilt superglue on my hand. Worse of all it wouldn't wash off!

The skin was all tight and felt really odd, almost like a chemical burn. Turns out I must be allergic to the juice from a butternut squash and have now got contact dermatitis on my hand. It is a common enough problem to be mentioned on the Wikipedia page for contact dermatitis, and there is even a medical paper on the topic (although I haven't been able to read that yet).

Looks like I'll have to wear gloves when cooking butternut squash in the future. I'm sure that will make cooking so much easier!

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