First Aid for Kitchen Accidents

Medically Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on March 17, 2023
5 min read

Your kitchen is a place where you can express your culinary creativity. It's also a place where you can get seriously hurt if you're not careful. Hot stoves can burn, sharp knives can cut, and a fleck of hot pepper to the eye can render you helpless.

So before you tie on your apron, review these kitchen safety and first aid tips. It’ll help make this favorite gathering spot a safer place for the entire family.

Kitchen knives are sharp. If you don't pay attention you could slip and slice your finger instead of that carrot.

If you do get cut while using a kitchen knife, here's how to treat the wound:

Clean it with soap and water. Apply pressure to the cut with a clean cloth or bandage for a few minutes to stop the bleeding. If you bleed through the cloth, place another one on top of it.

Use antibacterial ointment. If it’s a minor wound, dab a little of this over the cut. Cover the area with a bandage or gauze pad and adhesive tape.

Go to the emergency room if the bleeding is severe or doesn’t stop after five to 20 minutes of direct pressure. If the cut is longer than one-half inch, has jagged edges, becomes inflamed, or oozes fluid, you’ll need to see your doctor, too.

A pot of boiling water or soup can leave a nasty burn if you're not careful. To prevent burns, turn pot handles toward the back of the stove. Keep kids safe by making sure they stay at least three feet away from the stove or oven while you’re cooking.

To treat burns, you first need to figure out which type you have.

First-degree burn. This involves just the top layer of skin. It looks red and is painful, like sunburn. When you press on the burned area, it turns white.

To treat it, remove any clothing or jewelry that’s near the burn. If your clothes are stuck to it, don’t remove them. Place the injured area under cool, running water for 3 to 5 minutes.

Apply an antibiotic ointment -- never ice, oil, or butter -- to your wound. Cover it with a clean bandage. It should heal in 3 to 6 days.

Second-degree burn. This is a deeper skin injury. It turns red, blisters, swells, and hurts.

To treat it, soak the burned area in cool water for 15 to 30 minutes. Apply an antibiotic cream to prevent infection. Cover the area with a sterile dressing.

Change the dressing each day and check for signs of infection. These include increased redness, swelling, pain, and pus.

The wound will take 2 to 3 weeks to heal. It’ll also start to itch during this time, but don’t scratch it.

Third-degree burn. This is a medical emergency. Cover the wound in a cool, wet dressing and call 911 or head to the nearest emergency room.

This type of severe burn involves all layers of skin and will have white or blackened tissue on top. It might not hurt much. That’s because the nerves in the skin are damaged.

Not sure how bad your burn is? See your doctor right away if it:

  • Involves your face, hands, feet, or genitals (use your judgment for minor burns and cuts on your hands -- these are more common in the kitchen and often aren’t serious)
  • Is on or near a joint, such as your knee or shoulder
  • Goes all the way around a part of your body (like your arm or leg)
  • Is longer than 3 inches across or goes deeply into the skin

Water that sloshes out of an overfilled pot onto the floor can be a slippery hazard. If you fall, follow these tips:

  • Make sure you're not hurt before standing up. Getting up the wrong way could make the injury worse.
  • Slowly rise to your hands and knees.
  • Try to crawl to a chair and pull yourself up.
  • If you can't get up on your own, yell for help or call 911.
  • If the area is swollen and you think you might have a fracture (broken bone), try not to move it. Call your doctor or go to the emergency room.

What should you do if you accidentally shoot lemon juice straight into your eye? Or get splashed with bleach (or another toxic chemical) while cleaning up? Don’t panic. Follow these steps:

Lean over the sink and pour a gentle stream of lukewarm water over your eye. Keep flushing it out for up to 15 minutes. Cover your other eye to protect it.

Call the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.

If your eye is still irritated after you flush it out, call your doctor.

Call 911 If:

  • You have a cut in your eye. Don’t wash or apply pressure to it.
  • You feel like an object is stuck in your eye. Don’t try to get it out, rub it, or apply pressure to it.

Even normally safe kitchen products can become deadly if they’re swallowed. That's why it’s important to keep all household cleaners and chemicals stored safely (keep them locked up, if possible) and out of children's reach.

If you or someone else accidentally swallows something poisonous, call the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222. Then call 911.

If possible, take the chemical product with you when you go to the hospital so doctors will know exactly what was swallowed.

You want them to help out in the kitchen, but you don't want them to get hurt. Here’s how you can keep the littlest chefs safe:

  • Keep them at least 3 feet away from all bubbling pots and pans on the stove, and away from the oven. Install safety gates to keep toddlers out of harm’s way.
  • Don't let them use the stove, toaster oven, or microwave without your help.
  • Store all knives and other sharp objects out of their reach.
  • Turn your hot water heater down to 120 degrees so they can't get burned.
  • Use plastic bowls instead of glass so they won't shatter if dropped.
  • Teach your kids to avoid hot stoves and ovens and to stay away from chemicals.
  • Make sure that your smoke detectors are working. Keep a fire extinguisher handy.