How to Treat Accidental Knife Cuts in the Kitchen

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The kitchen is both the worst and best place to get a cut. Worst because the uncooked food is nearly always covered in bacteria. Best because soap and water are nearby.

If you cut yourself during food preparation, infection is your worst enemy. Luckily, soap and water are all you need to clean a wound, even one covered in bacteria.

This article explains how to identify an emergency and treat non-emergency kitchen cuts.

how to treat minor knife cuts at home

Verywell / Hugo Lin

Is It an Emergency?

Whether it's an emergency or not depends on how long, how deep, and where the cut is located. The good news is that finger cuts are seldom life-threatening.

With finger cuts, the biggest concern is that you could lose finger function or even the entire finger. However, more severe cuts or amputated fingers do have the potential to be deadly. That's because a deep gash across the palm or cutting off multiple fingers could lead to significant blood loss.

If the bleeding is severe (not just oozing) or blood is squirting, immediately take steps to control bleeding and call 911. Also, if you've cut off any part of a finger, call 911. Both of those are real emergencies.

You most likely are not going to die from a finger laceration, but you want to move quickly to ensure the survival of the finger.

If It Is Not an Emergency

If blood is oozing from the cut, then follow these steps:

  1. Wash the wound with soap and water. There are all kinds of disinfectant products, but nothing works better than plain old soap and warm water. Be sure to wash the cut while it's still bleeding! You don't want to clean the site after you stop bleeding because that will wash away the scab and start the bleeding over again.
  2. Encourage the blood to ooze out of the cut for a few minutes. As long as the blood isn't pouring out like a garden hose (see the part about emergencies above), then you should squeeze out a little extra. A little bleeding actually helps to flush out any bacteria that can cause infection. Next, squeeze out the blood under running water over the sink.
  3. Then control the bleeding. Put a gauze bandage, a towel, or similar cloth material over the cut and apply pressure until the bleeding stops. Elevating the finger will help, as well.
  4. If the person with the cut feels weak or dizzy, call 911 and treat for shock. It's always better to be safe than sorry, but it's still probably not life-threatening. Some people pass out from pain or the sight of blood. And before they pass out, they feel weak or dizzy. Have them lie down before they fall.

After the Bleeding Stops

Once the bleeding has stopped, and the wound is clean, you can dress it with an adhesive bandage. After you put a dressing over it, put a latex glove or plastic serving glove on that hand if you still have food prep to do.

Wait to apply antibiotic ointments or creams (such as Neosporin) until you finish in the kitchen.

If the cut is a half-inch or deeper and can see tissue below the skin, it may need stitches. One way to test it is to pull the edges apart. If you can, then the cut is probably worthy of a trip to the emergency room or urgent care center.

Summary

Fortunately, kitchen knife injuries are rarely fatal. However, they can cause significant bleeding, especially if the cut is deep or involves amputation. In these cases, you should seek emergency medical attention. Otherwise, you can treat minor kitchen knife wounds at home by washing the injury, letting it ooze a little before stopping the bleeding, and then bandaging it.

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2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Library of Medicine. Traumatic amputation.

  2. University of Rochester Medical Center. Lacerations (Cuts) Without Stiches in Children.