People tend to do a lot more cooking around the holidays, which can make the kitchen a chaotic place. In this Mayo Clinic Minute, Mayo Clinic experts weigh in on how to avoid an unnecessary trip to the emergency department for a kitchen knife injury.

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Dr. Sanj Kakar, a Mayo Clinic orthopedic surgeon, says he sees a lot of hand injuries from kitchen knife mishaps between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

“We’ve had patients who have, unfortunately, stuck a knife through their hand as it slipped. So we see a lot of these injuries happen over the holiday season.”

Dr. Kakar says kitchen knife cuts can be serious, even devastating.

“In the hand, you know, it’s very complicated. We worry about injury to bones, hand fractures, but other things, (such as) if we cut the tendon, which is the rope that moves our hands and fingers, or nerve injury or even blood vessel injuries.”

Before you take a stab at carving up that tough autumn vegetable, make sure you’re using the right technique. Mayo Clinic Executive Chef Jen Welper explains a common mistake people make while using a knife:

“Don’t go straight down with your knife. Just kind of already make contact inside of it, and then help push down,” Welper says.

She adds that using sharp knives to drive into what you’re cutting will not only require less pressure, but also can help keep the food or knife from slipping.

Some other tips to avoid hand injuries include:

  • Slice away from your hand and keep your fingers clear of the blade.
  • Never use the palm of your hand as a cutting board.
  • Keep your eyes on your cutting. Avoid distractions and alcohol.

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