They say the kitchen is the heart of the home. It is not only the spot for cooking and baking, but it is the gathering place for parties, craft projects, doing homework and family bonding time. While the kitchen is generally associated with fun and comfort, it can also be the home to several injuries and disasters. Here we are going to highlight some of the top hand hazards that occur in your kitchen and will offer up some suggestions on how to avoid them.
We shouldn’t have to tell you to put your hands down a garbage disposal, that seems like common sense. Yet hundreds of people every year end up in the emergency room due to garbage disposal related injuries! Occasionally the accident occurs while the disposal is running, perhaps you’re trying to add more food down the drain and push things a little too far. However, it is more likely that someone drops an unintended item down the sink, like a cap or a piece of jewelry, and cuts themselves on the still blades while attempting to retrieve the item. Disposal blades need to be quite sharp in order to slice through large or tough pieces of food, allowing them to pass through your pipes. If you do drop something down the disposal, we recommend using other tools to reach into the sink, such as plyers or tongs. If those items will not work, wear thick rubber gloves instead.
Accidently cutting yourself with a knife will happen at some point to every frequent cooker. Even trained chefs have run-ins with knife slips. For general cooking around the house, experts recommend working on a sturdy, flat surface, holding the item with your fingers curled in so the edge of the blade rests near your knuckles and your fingertips are out of harm’s way. While this applies to everyday knife use, there are two other actives that require knifes that cause frequent hand injuries:
- Pumpkin carving
Everyone loves carving pumpkins at Halloween, but it can be very dangerous! Every year our surgeons treat at least a few patients for pumpkin carving related injuries. To help avoid injury, the American Society for Surgery of the Hand recommends that carving be left to the adults, working a clean area free of moisture and using a pumpkin carving kit rather than your kitchen knives.
- Avocado cutting
With the increased popularity of avocados over the past few years, it should come as no surprise that the number of avocado related injuries have been on the rise as well. It even has its own name, Avocado Hand. Many people open an avocado by holding it in their hand, slicing around the avocado with a knife, then removing the pit by smacking the blade into it and twisting. This explanation alone sounds dangerous! The safest way to pit and slice an avocado is to lay the avocado on its side on a cutting board. Holding the top of the avocado with one hand, use a knife to slowly slide around the pit. Twist the avocado to separate the halves and use a spoon to remove the pit. It should then be sliced into sections on the cutting board, not in your hand.
Burns are another extremely common occurrence in any home but particularly in the kitchen. Given that anything that needs to be cooked or baked involves a heat source, it makes sense that burns appear at the top of the list. Kitchen burns are generally either caused by touching a hot object or heat source (such as grabbing a hot pan, getting too close to the grill or touching a hot stove) OR, from sprays of hot liquid (like grease pops or scalding water). Generally, the affected area will become red, sensitive and will begin to blister. Proper care is essential for any burn to prevent further injury and infection. According to the Mayo Clinic, burns should be rinsed under cool water for at least 10-15 seconds. Apply moisturizer with aloe to soothe the area and if necessary, take over the counter pain medication. Leave any blisters alone; do not pop them. If they break on their own, wash the area with soap and water and cover with a bandage to keep clean. Contact a medical professional if the blister worsens or if there are signs of an infection.
Infection is possible with nearly any break in the skin if not treated properly. Given that these burns and cuts occur while working with food (and raw, potentially dirty food at that), it is essential that injuries be cared for properly. After injury, be sure to wash your hands with soap and pat dry with a CLEAN cloth or paper towel. Apply antibiotic ointment and a bandage to keep clean. If you still have cooking to do that involves handling food, wear a disposable glove to keep the bandage from becoming soiled.