Kitchen 911 Hazards

ER veteran and a Dr. Oz Show expert contributor, Dr. Leigh Vinocur discusses the 5 common kitchen hazards. Learn how to create a safe kitchen and how to treat accidents when they occur.

Posted on | By Leigh Vinocur, MD, FACEP

If you think the only mishaps that can happen in your kitchen are a flat souffle or burnt cookies, think again. Kitchens are one of the most dangerous rooms in the house!

Did you know that the leading cause of death among children is accidental injury, and about half of those accidents occur in the home? The American College of Emergency Physicians states about 4.5 million kids are seen in the emergency department because of injuries occurring in the home.  And according to National Safety Council household injuries account for over 54,000 deaths and 13 million disabling injuries every year.

For many of us our kitchens are the nerve center of our homes. They are the place we eat, do homework, pay bills and often, the place where we all just hangout!  To keep your kitchen safe, here are 5 common kitchen hazards to watch out for:


Scalds are twice as common as fire burns in kids and are usually more serious, resulting in more hospitalizations.  About 300,000 burns from scalding steam or hot liquids are seen every year in emergency departments around the country. Over one-third of these occur in young children. It just takes a second for a toddler to grab a pot with boiling water from the stove or even a mug of hot coffee off the counter. Children are the most vulnerable because of their natural curiosity, but also they have thinner skin that burns more quickly. If a liquid is over 160F it only takes one second of contact with human skin to cause a serious burn - and in kids less than 5 years of age, it takes half the time! Deaths from scalding burns are the highest for kids under 4 years of age.

Burns from actual kitchen fires are another risk. According to the National Fire Protection Association, cooking fires are the #1 cause of home fires and home fire injuries. Most people are injured trying to put out the fire themselves.  So don't pour water over a grease fire, it actually causes the grease to splatter and spread the fire. 

Here are some key safety tips to prevent these injuries:

  • Never leave a child unattended in a kitchen (not even for a second) when cooking and never leave hot food or hot liquids within their reach.
  • When cooking on the stove, cook on the back burners and turn pot handles inward out of reach of small children and push any mugs with hot liquid to the back of the counter.
  • Designate a 3-foot area in front of the stove where kids are not allowed, use tape to help them distinguish this as a "danger zone." Consider placing a stove guard in front of your stove to prevent kids from reaching anything on the stove.
  • Avoid drinking hot liquids while holding children on your lap.
  • Always keep a fire extinguisher handy in your kitchen.

In the event of an emergency and you or your child gets burned, here are some first aid tips:

  • Remove affected clothing.
  • Run the burned area under cool water for 15 minutes.
  • Do not apply butter or ointments or creams.
  • Then cover with a dry clean gauze.
  • Call 911.

Article written by Leigh Vinocur, MD, FACEP
Board-certified Emergency Physician, Adjunct Assistant Professor LSU Health-Shreveport