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In a pickle: What to do if you cut yourself in the kitchen

Katherine Martinelli is an internationally published food and travel writer and photographer who contributes regularly to publications on three continents. She recently released her first cookbook, Puff Pastry at Brunch: 10 Sweet and Sa...

Basic kitchen safety

A common fear of working in the kitchen is getting cut. Although it happens rarely, it can occur. Know what to do in the case of a kitchen emergency like this and how to prevent it in the future.
Woman with bandage on finger

Even the most careful cooks get cut from time to time. Depending on how bad the injury is, it may need a Band-Aid or a trip to the hospital. Don’t panic, assess the situation and act accordingly.

Get tips for safe knife skills in the kitchen >>

Stop

As soon as you cut yourself, stop what you are doing. If you have something cooking that needs attention, quickly turn off the heat if you are able.

Assess

How bad is the cut? Is it a nick, or is it deep? Wash it with soap and water and see if it continues to bleed. Sit down if necessary.

Act

If the cut is squirting blood or if you feel weak or dizzy, call 911 immediately. Otherwise, apply direct, firm pressure to the cut with a dish towel, washcloth, or paper towel and hold it above your heart for up to 15 minutes or until the bleeding stops.

Bandage

Once the bleeding has stopped, apply an antibiotic ointment and a Band-Aid or gauze pad, depending on the size. If it's a very large, deep cut then it may still need stitches, and you should go to the doctor immediately. A small cut should be fine now, though the area may still be sensitive, and you may experience some pain.

Continue

Once you are all taken care of and your cut is cared for, you can continue cooking if you are able (don't push yourself!). Make sure that you didn’t get any blood on the food (discard it if you did) and that you didn't burn anything.

More good practices

Be sure to keep a first aid kit handy, complete with Band-Aids, antibiotic ointment like Neosporin and gauze. Even better, keep a first aid kit in or near the kitchen. Burn relief cream is another great thing to have on hand.

Prevent it in the future

To prevent cutting yourself in the future, be sure your knives are sharp. Counterintuitive as it may sound, people cut themselves with dull knives more often than sharp ones. Make sure to cut on a cutting board (as opposed to in your hands). If the cutting board is slipping on the counter, put a wet cloth underneath it to make it slip-resistant. When cutting, curl your vegetables under so the knife goes past your knuckles, not your fingertips.

In another pickle? Find more solutions to common kitchen problems >>

More on knife safety

Ways to sharpen dull knives
Types of knives and how to use them
Keep your knives clean and sharp

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