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Most of us don’t think of avocados and bagels as health hazards. But you may be surprised to learn that they cause thousands of injuries each year. To be more precise, we sometimes hurt ourselves when cutting our favorite foods. Kitchen knife injuries to the hands are more common than we think. The American Society for Surgery of the Hand offers helpful hints on how to cut an avocado–and why it’s essential to cut safely. With the booming popularity of avocados as a delicious source of healthy fats, avocado-related knife injuries are going up. The kitchen can be a dangerous place for your hands. Knife injuries are often superficial, but they can do significant damage if they affect nerves, blood vessels, or tendons.
The Avocado Slicing “Epidemic” And Other Hand Injuries
According to a 2019 article in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, there’s been an “epidemic” of avocado-related knife injuries in recent years. There were a whopping 27,059 avocado-related knife injuries between 2013-2017. Who’s cutting themselves most while slicing into those green beauties? Most injuries are in women in the 23 to 39-year age range. Avocados are indeed one of nature’s perfect foods, but we need to cut them with care.
A decade ago, the big news was “BRIs” (bagel-related injuries). When a 2008 study found nearly 2000 emergency room visits a year resulted from careless bagel cutting techniques, it made headlines. As with many other food slicing injuries, most of the damage results from folks holding the bagel while cutting downward and slashing the palm.
Other common causes of kitchen-related hand injuries include:
- Cuts to the hand while slicing chicken.
- Slicing potatoes, apples, and onions.
- Using a mandoline slicer without the handguard.
- Cuts to the hand while washing knives and kitchen shears.
- Slicing the hand while using an unstable cutting board.
How Can I Cut Avocados And Other Foods Safely?
Reports of hand injuries have led to the invention of a range of devices for cutting bagels and produce. But in most cases, you can avoid getting hurt by taking your time and using the right technique. This often means cutting the item on its side on a flat surface rather than attempting to hold it in your palm.
For example, ASSH offers these recommendations for cutting an avocado:
- Cut the avocado on a flat surface while holding it on its side, then rotating the avocado (not the knife).
- Grabbing avocado (or other produce) with a dishtowel can also help you get a better grip and avoid direct contact with the knife.
- Using a sharp knife is also crucial since dull blades are more likely to slip.
- Take the pit out by scooping it with a large spoon. If that’s not possible, use a chef’s knife by striking the pit until the knife is gently lodged in the middle, then twist until the pit comes out. To remove the pit from the knife, either use your thumb to carefully push it off or use the dishtowel to pull it from the knife.
- For avocado slices or chunks, use your knife to slice it directly in the skin. Then, use a spoon to scoop out the avocado from the peel.
What Happens If I Cut My Hand In The Kitchen?
If you cut your hand in the kitchen, basic first aid is the best place to start. In many cases, it’s all you need. But if the bleeding doesn’t stop, it’s time to get medical help. Here are the essential first steps:
- Apply pressure until the bleeding stops.
- Clean with warm water and soap.
- Treat with antibiotic ointment and a sterile bandage.
When Should I See A Doctor For A Cut To My Hand?
The hand is a tough but delicate extremity, with nerves, blood vessels, and tendons close to the skin. Knife cuts can cause serious injuries that require stitches and even hand surgery. If you have the following symptoms, it’s time to head to the emergency room. In many cases, you’ll need follow-up care from an orthopedic hand specialist.
- Blood spurting from the wound.
- A cut that doesn’t stop bleeding after several minutes of pressure.
- Feelings of numbness.
- Loss of motion or strength.
- Exposed tendons, bones, joints, blood vessels or nerves.
- Amputation of a finger or part of a finger. If you’ve cut off a finger or part of a finger, collect it, place it on ice and take it to the hospital.
How Can I Move Forward After Injuring My Hand?
When we see a hand injury, we’re on the lookout for nerve, tendon or blood vessel damage. Cutting tendons with a knife can cause loss of function and ongoing pain, so it’s vital to get care right away. Surgery can include tendon or nerve repair and replantation (reattaching a finger or part of a finger). We’ll usually immobilize your hand right after surgery. Our focus is on regaining function and speeding the healing process. Hand therapy plays an essential role in regaining function and helping you heal. Hand therapy includes:
- Exercises to help restore function
- Heat therapy
- Massage therapy
- Nerve stimulation
At Countryside Orthopaedics, we are privileged to have one of the region’s top hand specialists, Dr. Imran Khan. We also have a top-notch hand therapy team to help speed recovery and improve function. Most of us think of kitchen cuts as minor injuries, but they can cause significant problems. Hand function makes a substantial difference in our quality of life. When we lose it, the impact can be profound. So cut those avocados carefully. If your injury cuts below the surface, consider Countryside Orthopaedics for immediate care and hand therapy for a full recovery.