NEW JERSEY — As people stay home to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, cooking has become a more popular pastime. But more time in the kitchen can sometimes lead to its own health risks: Cuts, burns and other accidents leading to injury.

With the holiday season underway, cooking fires are also expected to rise: Thanksgiving and Christmas days see a 250 and 59 percent increase in cooking fires compared to normal days, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

Here’s what you need to know to prevent common cooking injuries and accidents:

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Use a sharp knife

Home cooks are more likely to cut themselves using dull knives, according to Chef Karan Fischer, owner of the Montclair Culinary Academy.

Sharp knives reduce the amount of force to cut food and also allow for proper cutting techniques, which reduce the chances of injury.

“A sharp knife won't cut you but a dull knife will,” she said.

Plan ahead

Many cooking injuries can be attributed to rushing and inattention, Fischer said.

Whether it be a cut while chopping vegetables or inattention to the stovetop, thinking ahead can prevent the most common mistakes. Fischer recommends shopping with a meal plan in mind.

“If they're getting a roasted chicken, they know they can turn that chicken into three different things: a hot meal, leftover chicken salad to chicken sandwiches, or things like that,” she said.

Use proper tools to handle hot items

When stay at home orders were implemented at the start of the pandemic, some parts of the country saw a six-fold increase of patients with cooking-related burns. 

Fischer said using silicone oven mitts instead of kitchen towels or cloths can prevent common top-of-the-hand burns.

She also recommended keeping a supply of burn cream, like how people keep Band-Aids in the medicine cabinet.

“If you burn yourself, just put the cream on and it will reduce the burn within three minutes,” she said. “It’s definitely something to keep on hand.”

Be prepared for cooking fires

Cooking fires are the most common source of home fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association. 

To put out stovetop fires, the recommendation is to smother flames with a lid and turning the flame off until the pan is cooled. 

For oven fires, the NFPA recommends turning off the oven and closing the door until the fire has abated. Small fires can be smothered with baking soda or salt to put it out, according to Firerescue1. Fire extinguishers can also be used, but only as a last resort.

If a fire is out of control, it is best to get outside and contact 911 immediately.

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