Nearly half of all reported eye injuries happen in and around the home1 and the kitchen is full of potential hazards. Here are seven tips on how to keep your eyes safe in the kitchen.
It’s that time of year again. As we welcome friends and family to reunite in our homes, we’re going to want to spoil them with lots of delicious food, which means that the stove and oven are working overtime.
In overcrowded kitchens, things can get hectic, which means that there are more opportunities for accidents to occur. While we take care to protect our hands from burns and cuts, we should also take care of our eyes. Here are seven potential hazards, how to avoid an emergency trip to the ophthalmologist, and what to do if something goes wrong.
1. Hot oils and other cooking liquids can splash into your eye.
Any liquid that splashes in your eye can potentially cause some damage. Acidic or alkaline juices can cause a burning sensation, while hot oils and liquids can burn and blister the eye. If you misjudge the heat of the oil, or don’t take care while placing your food into the pan, hot oil is prone to splattering uncontrollably.
Use protective eyewear. A pair of safety goggles is a worthwhile investment for any household. They can be used while you’re doing DIY or working in the garden. As an added bonus, they’ll also help a little when you’re chopping onions!
If you don’t want to sport a pair of goggles in the kitchen, use a grease shield when cooking with oil on the stove.
If anything does get into your eye, flush it out immediately with plenty of fresh water. If you have an obvious injury, if you’re in excessive pain, if the pain persists, or if you are at all concerned, book an appointment with your eye doctor or ophthalmologist as soon as possible.
In emergency situations, call 911 or go immediately to the ER.
2. Raw meat
Be careful if you have to handle raw meat. It can contain dangerous microorganisms that cause infection.
It is not advised to try and wash meat before cooking it.2 Washing raw meat does not get rid of the bacteria, but it can cause bacteria to spread to other surfaces and utensils near your sink.
If you have handled raw meat, wash your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds with soapy, warm water before touching other food, utensils, or your face.
And definitely, DON’T use a raw steak to soothe a black eye.
3. Hot spices
If you’re cooking with jalapeno peppers or other hot spices, they can stay on your fingers for a while after you’ve handled them. If you happen to touch your eyes, it’s agonizing!
Should it happen, wash your eyes out with plenty of water. Be careful not to touch your eyes with the pads of your affected fingers while you're washing your eye, since it could worsen the situation. You can use baby shampoo to wash around the eye, but avoid getting the product in your eye.
To prevent it from happening in the first place, take extra care not to touch your eyes or face when handling spicy ingredients. You can use gloves, if you like, but if you don’t, make sure you wash your hands thoroughly with soapy water after you’ve been touching spices, and don’t forget to get under your nails.
4. Cleaning products
When using caustic cleaning products, most of us use gloves to protect our hands, but have you considered protecting your eyes? Bleach, oven cleaners, and other cleaning products present some serious risks if they get into your eyes. In the event that they do get into your eye, flush your eyes with lots of water and seek medical attention immediately. If your injury is severe, you will need the attention of an eye doctor specialist or ophthalmologist.
In emergency situations, call 911 or go immediately to the ER.
5. Don’t put food in your eye.
We’ve already addressed not putting a raw steak over a black eye, but that’s not the only bizarre urban myth that poses a risk to eye health.
Don’t put milk in your eye. Since drinking milk after eating spicy food is said to soothe your mouth, people assume the same is true of putting milk in your eye. Bloggers have also been recommending the use of breast milk to cure pink eye in babies. There is no evidence to validate this urban myth, and putting any milk in your eye can lead to infection. Oh, and raw honey does NOT change your eye color. Enough said about that.
As a rule, never put any substance in your eye that has not been approved by a medical eye doctor. They can cause infection and make your condition much worse.3
6. Sharp utensils
Knives, forks, scissors, and other sharp implements must be handled carefully. When loading the dishwasher, place sharp cutlery pointy side down. Be especially careful if there are children around. The third most common cause for eye trauma in kids is accidentally being pierced or cut by a sharp object.4
7. Poor nutrition
So far, we have spoken about the effects of things getting into your eye, but what you eat dictates your long-term eye health.5
Citrus fruits, vegetable oils, nuts, whole grains, dark-green leafy vegetables, and salmon are all rich nutrients that have links to long-term eye health.6
Diabetes is a leading cause of blindness globally.7 Type 2 diabetes is preventable through making lifestyle changes and committing to them.8 If you are concerned you might be at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, talk to your primary care physician, who can work with you to create a diet and exercise plan.
6. AAO. “Diet and Nutrition.” Retrieved Nov. 2019.
7. Lee, Ryan et al. “Epidemiology of diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema and related vision loss.” Eye and vision (London, England) vol. 2 17. 30 Sep. 2015, doi:10.1186/s40662-015-0026-2
American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO). “8 Kitchen Eye Safety Tips” Retrieved from: https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/eight-kitchen-safety-tips Nov. 2019.
AAO. “Eye Injuries at Home.” (2016) Retrieved Nov. 2019.
United States Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service. “Washing Food: Does it Promote Food Safety?” Retrieved Nov. 2019.
AAO. “Quick Home Remedies for Pink Eye” Retrieved Nov. 2019.
AAO. “Falls and Brawls Top List of Causes for Eye Injuries in United States” Retrieved Nov. 2019.
AAO. “Diet and Nutrition” Retrieved Nov. 2019.
Lee, Ryan et al. “Epidemiology of diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema and related vision loss.” Eye and vision (London, England) vol. 2 17. 30 Sep. 2015, doi:10.1186/s40662-015-0026-2
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. “Preventing Type 2 Diabetes.” Retrieved Nov. 2019.