Trigger Alert! If you are a foodie, you already know that cooking can provide more gratification more than anything out there. However, whether you cook for fun or for necessity, we all need to be aware that the kitchen is the most dangerous room in the whole house. Keeping that in mind prevents all kinds of unnecessary injuries and illnesses that come as a result of not being very cautious.
It reminds me of a famous fashion and beauty YouTube vlogger, Shalom Blanc, who vlogs about her journey as a burn survivor. In one of her videos, she recounts her horrific story of how she got burnt.
Shalom and her younger sister were napping on a bench in their mother’s fast food restaurant in their native country Nigeria. When the mom was done with the day and preparing to close, she brought the scorching hot oil and placed it on a table, not knowing that the kids were sleeping just under it. Since it was a bit dark she didn’t see them and a few minutes later someone accidentally hit the pan, and all the oil poured on the two little girls. Both of them got third-degree burns that left Shalom with severe scars and permanently bald.
There are a thousand of stories of minor and major injuries and illness that derive from the kitchen; a very recent concern is the gas explosion here in Rwanda that has caused people to feel uncomfortable using gas altogether. Apart from safety, poor sanitation also often results into food poisoning and other severe sickness.
With deliberate close attention, most of these things can be avoided and if they inevitably happen, there are tips to deal with the aftermath scenarios, including first aid procedures.
Sanitation Do’s & Don’ts
- Before starting to cook, wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. Tip: you can sing the happy birthday song in your mind to get the seconds right if you don’t want to set the timer.
- Thoroughly clean your work area with a scrub and cleaning soap, and sanitize it. Tip: For a natural sanitizer mix lemon juice and water and put in the spray bottle and apply on top of the working area. Let it rest for 15 minutes to get rid of all germs. Vinegar is another great alternative.
- Cook through all foods especially chicken and minced meat as those can cause some deadly food poisoning like salmonella. Always check meat readiness by cutting through it and check for any still fresh-looking parts or invest in a kitchen thermometer and follow recommended “ready” temperatures: poultry and beef are typically ready at 75 C and fish at 64 C.
- Do not leave cooked foods out for long, preferably not more than 2 hours. Store all perishable goods in the refrigerator at all times between -5 degrees or in the freezer.
- When using chopping boards make sure they are cleaned especially after cutting meat to avoid cross-contamination; replace the boards when you notice some major scratches for these can be a breeding spot for bacteria and harmful toxins.
As a rule of thumb if food smells or looks off, do not risk it – discard it! “Clean as you go” should be your motto.
Safety Do’s & Don’ts
- A dull knife is hazardous, sharpen your knife at all times!
- The knife’s handle can easily slip off and cause injury when it’s not clean, wipe the handles in between usage.
- When moving across the house holding a knife, use signal words like “Knife behind you!” or “Coming through!”, to alert the people in the house. Hold it by the handle and tuck it towards your arm as you move across – never point or make signs using the knife.
Chopping boards: Place wet paper towels or damp kitchen towel under the board to maintain a stable surface, without that it can easily slip off and cause cuts especially when cutting bones or hard foods like carrots.
Clothes: Refrain from wearing loose clothing while cooking for they can easily get trapped or catch fire. Tie your hair behind or wear a hair-net suitable for the kitchen
Pots: Turn pot handles away from the front of the stove to avoid accidentally hitting them or a child pulling them.
Spills: Immediately wipe as they occur for they may cause tripping and falling.
Hot foods: Hot oil and water, or any hot food, should be kept on the floor in a safe corner, and people in the house should be notified especially children.
Be aware of your environment: Pay full attention when cooking, keep away any distractions like cell phones. Watch out for people in the house, particularly running children.
Gas usage: regularly inspect your gas cylinder t for any leakage, burn out or old pipes, and switch it off when it’s not being used.
When in danger
Fire: In case of a mild fire, pour baking soda to the fire source or use a damp towel. If the pan catches fire, carefully turn off the heat and cover the pot with a lid. Never add water to fire!
Cuts: If you cut yourself, apply pressure on the area to stop bleeding and tie it with a clean cloth as first aid, sanitize it and bandage. When it’s a deep cut, immediately go to hospital.
Burns: For mild burns, soothe with cool water and apply salt or oil; for severe burns immediately run into the emergency room at a hospital near you.
Gas: In case of gas explosion, close the kitchen door to stop oxygen and immediately vacate the room; if you catch it early enough, quickly turn off the gas. Never switch on the light or use phone in that area. Always keep your safety and those around as a priority.
It is advisable to own a first aid kit at home and keep it in an open area where can accessed at all times.
Memorize the emergency numbers:
Fire brigade 0788311120;
Do not rely only on the neighbors if you are at risk.
You may use this simple guideline as a training tool for you and your entire household, especially with house helps and the children – pin the important points in the kitchen as a constant reminder
Safety and health are paramount, stay safe and enjoy cooking!