What to Do When Accidents Happen in the Kitchen

What to Do When Accidents Happen in the Kitchen

I’m going to talk about something a little serious today. It is not the most pleasant thing, but it is an unfortunate reality of frequent cooking.

Accidents Happen

For the past three weeks, I have had a poofy, paper-tape covered gauze bandage on my index finger. When people ask what happened, I say that I cut off the tip of my finger.

I’m not exaggerating!

I was preparing dinner, a very wonderful, rather important dinner. I even cooked in the afternoon so everything would be ready in advance. I wasn’t being particularly hasty (for once), and perhaps that was my undoing.

While trying to peel a particularly difficult clove of garlic, I happened to be holding my chef’s knife at the time. Too much force and a little slip, and the knife went through the tip of my finger to the nail. Little bits of cilantro from the knife got caught between my skin and the nail.

I’m not telling you all of this to freak you out. I apologize if you are squeamish and don’t do well with blood. The point is: even when you’re taking your time and cooking slowly, accidents happen.

Here’s how to react when they do:

Be Prepared

I know this seems to be my mantra lately, but it’s good advice. A little preparedness goes a long way.

If you don’t have basic first aid items in your house, then you definitely need to get on that. I am not advocating an EMT level kit. Even the two dollar box in the travel section at CVS is a great start.

At the very least, I recommend having:

  • Bandaids (in a few different sizes)
    You can usually get one multi-pack instead of buying several boxes.
  • Neosporin
    It really works wonders.
  • Gauze
    For when there is a lot of blood.
  • Paper Tape
    For the aforementioned gauze.
  • Burn Ointment
    Not a necessity in every home, but if you are prone to baking, you are also likely to burn yourself occasionally.

Act Quickly

Don’t pretend nothing happened and keep cooking. It sounds silly, but I know a lot of people who do this.

First of all, it is unsanitary. But more importantly, those first moments after you injure yourself are important for keep infection at bay and promoting coagulation (Mayo Clinic). The less time between cutting yourself and attending to it, the better.

Most people have basic first aid supplies in the house somewhere. Emphasis on the “some.” But location can make a big difference. You are more likely to cut or burn yourself in the kitchen than any other part of the house, so you should consider keeping your first aid kit there.

It’s no good running upstairs or pawing through a closet when you are gushing blood. Perhaps gushing is an overstatement, but you get the drift.

Sit down

This might not seem necessary with every injury. While I recommend acting quickly, you don’t need to act in a speedy fashion.

Even if you don’t draw blood, your system is still in shock from your burnt arm or the finger you caught in a drawer. It is sending all sorts of messages through your body and sometimes these can be overwhelming.

Take a minute. Breathe. As much as you need to take care of your actual injury, you need to take care of yourself.

Do a little self-inventory before you go back to cooking: Is my heart racing? Do I feel warm? Is my throat suddenly dry? Addressing these secondary needs is an important part of getting back on track.

Is the food okay?

In addition to cooking and entertaining, I often spend evenings tango dancing. It’s quite ritualized, as social dances go. How you asking someone to dance, who walks toward whom first, and what happens when someone gets hurts. A man is always supposed to make sure the other lady is okay, then his own partner, and finally, himself.

When you are rushing to get dinner ready, too often, the focus gets stuck on the food. But if you have read this far, you know that you need to check yourself out first. Be the pampered tango lady. Only after you have checked yourself out should you worry about the food.

First, there is the obvious question: is there blood in the food? (in that case you should certainly toss it) Sometimes whatever caused you to get hurt also involved burning, spilling, or otherwise ruining the food.

Take stock, salvage what you can, and move forward.

When to call off the party

After cutting off my fingertip, I had to sit down. For a while. Like . . . a long while. My fiance thought we should call off the dinner.

It certainly depends on the person, but for me, there are two reasons to cancel a party:
(1) You are not in a state to make it through the party. (This also applies if you have a bad cold or stomachache and would be uncomfortable all evening.)
(2) You are not able to finish the dinner preparations.

I was lucky enough to both have the cooking almost done and someone there to help, but this isn’t the case for everyone.

The Twitter Version

When there’s an accident in the kitchen, take care of yourself first. Make sure you are ok and up to hosting a party BEFORE you keep going.