IMPORTANT: If you've had a serious kitchen accident, stop reading this article and call 911!

By Jillian Kramer
Updated May 24, 2017
© Getty Images/iStockphoto

There's the I-added-too-much-pepper-to-my-chili-recipe kind of kitchen accident—and then there's the I-sliced-my-finger-open-with-a-dull-knife variety. And while we hope an overabundance of pepper is the worst-case scenario you'll ever face in this room, chances are fair-to-good that something slightly more calamitous will happen on your countertop.

In the moment of a more serious kitchen accident, you might not know what to do, and you could make the situation worse. So read this guide now—which takes you through five all-too-common kitchen accidents—so that you'll know what to do if one happens to you.

You cut yourself with a knife.

You're twisting the pit out of an avocado when the knife pierces its core and goes straight into your palm. (It happens—trust us.) Put down the blade and move to the sink, where you should wash your hands with antibacterial soap—to prevent infection—and run the wound under cool water, instructs Jack Cornwell, M.D., medical director of CareWell Urgent Care.

Do not blow on the cut, Cornwell says. "Blowing air to relieve pain can spread germs to the wound," he explains. Instead, apply direct pressure to the wound to stop further bleeding, slather the cut with an antibacterial ointment, and cover it with a clean bandage, he says. If you're still in pain, don't reach for an aspirin or ibuprofen, warns Keith Carlson, R.N., B.S.N. Those pain medications can promote bleeding, so pop an acetaminophen instead.

You scald yourself with boiling water.

You pour out pasta water—on your hand. Ouch. Your skin is as hot as the water now, so you need to cool it down, Carlson says. Rinse the burned skin under cool—not cold—water, and keep it there for at least 10 minutes. Yep, that's how long it'll take to really cool the area.

Now that your skin is cool, it's time to remove any rings, bracelets, or watches near to your burn, says Christopher Carrubba, M.D., physician consultant for Healthgrades. Swelling can occur after the burn sets in, and this preventative step could keep you from having to cut a precious bauble or heirloom. Then apply a topical antibiotic, such as Neosporin, and lightly wrap the area with a bandage, Carrubba says. Until the burn heals, you'll want to continue to apply topical treatments three to four times a day. And if it worsens or blisters, make an appointment to see your primary care physician, Carrubba says.

You slip on something spilled on the floor.

You're not the best at cleaning up as you go, so you didn't notice you'd let a little olive oil drizzle on the tile—until you slipped and fell to the floor, that is. But now that you're down, stay that way—at least for a little while, Cornwell says. "Don't try to get up right away," he instructs. "Take a moment to breathe and feel if something hurts. It's very easy to sprain an ankle or bruise a knee, and getting up quickly can agitate the injury or make it worse."

When you're ready to rise, ask someone to help you up. If you're flying solo, "use a chair or a counter to slowly make your way onto your feet," Cornwell suggests. Then clean the area so that you won't slip again—and make a commitment to clean as you go moving forward.

You burn yourself on the oven or a hot pan.

Forgot to grab the potholder before you touched the pan? Or perhaps you leaned down to baste your Thanksgiving turkey, and accidentally tapped your forearm against the top of the oven. Turn on the faucet, run a cool stream of water, and keep the affected area under that stream for at least 10 minutes. If your burn is in an area you can't get to the sink—say, you bumped your leg against an opened oven—then submerge the burn in a bowl or basin or water, Cornwell recommends. Once dry, gently apply antibacterial ointment and loosely wrap the area with gauze, he says.

If the burn begins to worsen—think, the skin begins to blister, or you lose multiple layers of skin—you'll need to head to the hospital, says Carrubba. Perhaps counter-intuitively, lack of pain is also a sign you should see a physician. "An absence of pain is a sign of a severe burn that has gone deep enough to damage local nerves," Carrubba explains. Go to the ER ASAP.

You handle a hot pepper, then touch your eyes.

You cut into a jalapeno pepper, then thoughtlessly rubbed your eyes. Within seconds, your eyes are burning. You can make it stop—but before you treat your eyes, you first have to wash your hands, says Cornwell. If you don't, you could make the irritation worse. Use soap and water to remove the pepper's residue, paying special attention to scrub your fingertips.

Once your hands are clean and dry, splash cool water into your eyes and blink rapidly, which will help your tears flow and flush out your eyes, Cornwell says. Wearing contacts? Take 'em out before you wash your eyes. You can also use saline solution to clean the area.