From burns to carving, how you can avoid emergencies this holiday season
A few kitchen-related injuries are more common when preparing large meals. Our experts explain the best way to prevent them.
For many of us, the holiday season is about spending time with our families. And that often includes a big dinner and more time in the kitchen, which can lead to a boost in cooking-related burns and cuts.
3 types of burn injuries that often happen in the kitchen
Most are minor but some can require hospitalization.
These are the most common type of kitchen burns. There is a lot of activity in kitchens with multiple different things cooking at once. And that makes it easy to become distracted. It’s not uncommon to mistakenly touch a hot pan or even grab the handle of a cast-iron pan without an oven mitt. Many contact burns actually involve small children touching an open oven door or putting their hand on a glass stove-top surface. Doctor’s tips: Although children love to be where the action is, 1-on-1 supervision is difficult during the holidays. So keep small children out of the kitchen while cooking large meals. Close your oven door immediately after removing food. And keep pot handles turned inward.
Caused by hot cooking oils, juices or grease.
It can be easy with a heavy turkey or ham to shift and spill grease on your hand. This also happens when moving smaller pans with hot liquids quickly from one place to another. The pain from the scald can cause you to drop the object – and that can cause injury to other parts of your body. The most dangerous scald burns involve accidents with deep fryers, which are sometimes used to fry a holiday turkey. Doctor’s tips: Wear oven mitts. Stand back from the stove. And don’t use water to put out a grease fire. Smother the fire by covering the pan with a lid or nearby towel. Pick a safe outdoor spot for the fryer away from playing children.
Tend to be the most catastrophic burns.
These usually involve a kitchen fire, or loose clothing that ignites over a gas stove top. Flames have the most heat and can cause extremely serious burns across large portions of the body. Doctor’s tips: Always have a fire extinguisher nearby.
Should I go to the hospital or urgent care after suffering a burn?
In severe cases, the answer to that question is an obvious “yes”.
But with most burns, you can try at-home treatment first. Run the burn under cold water for five minutes, but don’t put ice on it. It is OK to put antibiotic ointment on small burns. And then wrap it up, because contact with the air causes pain.
Seek medical care for burns:
- If large blisters develop quickly
- If extreme pain lingers
- If you experience burns to the hands or face
- If the burn is larger in size than the palm of your hand
Meat carving safety tips
Burns aren’t the only concerns when it comes to cooking large meals over the holidays. My colleague, Dr. Christina Ward, an orthopedic surgeon and the Medical Director for Ambulatory Surgery at TRIA Woodbury, has some tips for carving those holiday hams and turkeys:
- Keep your cutting area and knife handle dry
- Keep all cutting utensils sharp – if your knife is sharp enough, it should not need force in order to carve
- If possible, use an electric knife for the carving
- Don’t cut toward the hand that is not holding the knife
- Don’t put your hand underneath the blade to catch the slice of meat
- Don’t let children assist with the carving, cutting or chopping
- Don’t use a knife to cut frozen foods
- Use kitchen shears to cut the bones and joints of the turkey
Dr. Ward, myself and any other trauma surgeon would agree, the best holiday is one that doesn’t involve a trip to the emergency room. Enjoy your families and please be safe!
About William Mohr, MD
Dr. William Mohr joined The Burn Center at Regions Hospital in 2001, and he has been the Medical Director of the program since 2003. His primary focus is the care of burn patients from day of injury through complete rehabilitation. Dr. Mohr is also a member of the American Burn Association and the American College of Surgeons.