Do you have a fire extinguisher below your sink? Or an extra box of baking soda in the pantry? You should, according to the experts. From minor cuts and burns to grease fires and more, there's a real risk of injury in the kitchen, so it's essential to have first aid supplies within arm’s reach. Here are the six things experts say you should keep in the kitchen at all times.
First things first: If you’re going to cook, be sure you’ve cleared any possible distractions so you can stay focused on your task the kitchen. “Cooking is the leading cause of home fires, and a Red Cross survey shows that roughly 70 percent of people have left the kitchen while cooking,” says Kevin F. Kelley, senior director of community preparedness programs for the American Red Cross. He recommends purchasing a fire extinguisher for your kitchen. “Contact your local fire department to take training on the proper use of extinguishers," he says. Check out our firefighter-approved cooking tips for more safe practices.
When cooking on a stove top, there’s always a chance you may have spills or splatter from the food you’re simmering, frying, or boiling. Grease splatters can sometimes lead to small flames. Don’t panic, but act quickly. “Sliding a lid over the burning pan and turning off the burner is that safest way to contain and smother a small grease fire," says Don Lauritzen of the American Red Cross National Headquarters. "If small amounts of grease and flames have spread beyond the pan, use baking soda or salt to smother the fire."
Sterile dressing (and sterile gauze pads and roller bandages)
Spend enough time in the kitchen and you’re sure to experience a burn. It happens to the best of us. Keep rolls of gauze or dressing on hand, plus a few roller bandages, for a cost-effective first aid treatment. “Cool the burn with cold running water for at least 10 minutes or until the pain is relieved," Kelley says. "Then cover the burn loosely with sterile dressing.” If the burn is severe or there are other life-threatening conditions, call your local emergency number.
There are lots of safe practices for slicing and dicing in the kitchen, but accidents still happen. So in addition to stocking up on regular adhesive bandages in various sizes, toss in a few butterfly bandages. Also called steri-strips or butterfly stitches, these are useful for small cuts. (Of course, if your cut is deep or won't stop bleeding, you should have it looked at by a professional.)
To reduce the risk of cuts, Chris Atwood, a chef at Atlanta-based Cozymeal, says one key step is keeping your knives sharp. "Dull ones tempt you to push down too hard, making a slip more likely," he says. "Knives should cut with little pressure.” Check out our list of best knife practices for extra-safe cutting.
Keeping cuts clean is important not just for your safety but for food safety, too. First, Kelley says, wash the wound with soap and water, then rinse for about five minutes with clean water. “Then apply a triple antibiotic ointment or cream, provided you're not allergic or sensitive to the medication," Kelley says. Be sure your wound is well-covered and clean at all times, whether you're in the kitchen or out.
Slipping is a real hazard in the kitchen. Water, sauces, and more can easily find their way to the ground, leaving the floors wet in your cooking area. Keep a few ice packs in the freezer for a quick remedy if you fall. The sooner you’re able to apply ice, the better your chances are of reducing swelling.