November 16, 2021
It’s no joke that the kitchen is considered the most dangerous room in the house. In addition to burns, knife accidents are among the most common kitchen injuries, especially during the holidays.
Take, for example, 16-year-old Shane who recently sliced her finger while carving pumpkins with friends — and Lynda, 62, who severed two fingers while dislodging food in an immersion blender. Both required surgery to re-attach their fingers.
“I see a big increase in hand and finger injuries from knives between Halloween and Christmas,” says Xavier Simcock, MD, a hand and wrist surgeon at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush. “I’ve treated patients who have mistakenly cut themselves while carving pumpkins or slicing holiday dishes with a knife. It can happen so easily, especially with momentary distractions.”
Hand and finger injuries can be very serious and potentially cause someone to lose function. “If a tendon, which is the rope that moves our hands and fingers, is cut, it can be difficult to re-attach and regain optimal movement,” Dr. Simcock explains. “And severing a nerve can cause you to lose feeling in that extremity.”
Before you take a stab at carving an acorn squash or large Thanksgiving turkey this year, make sure you are using the right technique.
Kristen Grider, a Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush occupational therapist who also treats hand and finger injuries from knife accidents, has these tips for cooks:
- Make sure your knife is sharp. This will not only require less pressure to cut but can help keep the food or knife from slipping.
- Keep your cutting area well-lit and dry. Good lighting will help prevent an accidental finger cut and a dry surface will prevent food from slipping while chopping.
- Always slice away from your hand and keep your fingers clear of the blade.
- Never cut something on the palm of your hand. That’s what cutting boards are for.
- Make round objects easier to cut by slicing them in half first and then placing the flat side on a cutting board.
- If you are mincing, keep the tip of your knife on the cutting board and pump up and down quickly while slowly pushing the food under the blade.
- Don’t multi-task and focus on what you are slicing. Turn off the TV and save the chatting until you are finished.
- Avoid alcohol until you are done carving or cutting.
- As always, don’t let your dirty knives remain in the dishwater while you are cleaning up. Wash them all, either before or after you are done with the dishes so that you can safely place them aside.
Be safe in the kitchen this year and enjoy the holidays injury-free!