Pumpkin Carving Safety Tips for Patients

The American Society for Surgery of the Hand caution parents to take extra steps to prevent hand injuries when carving pumpkins during the Halloween season.

“Every Halloween season we see four or five patients — both adults and children — who come into our office with severe injuries to their hands and fingers,” says Jeffrey Wint, MD, an ASSH member from The Hand Center of Western Massachusetts in Springfield, Mass. “Treatment can often run three to four months, from the time of surgery through rehabilitation.”

To prevent hand injuries, the ASSH suggests the following safety tips:

Carve in a Clean, Dry, Well-lit Area
Wash and thoroughly dry all of the tools that you will use, including: carving tools, knife, cutting surface,
and your hands. Any moisture on your tools, hands, or table can cause slipping that can lead to injuries.

Always Have Adult Supervision
“All too often, we see adolescent patients with injuries because adults feel the kids are responsible enough to be
left on their own,” says Wint. “Even though the carving may be going great, it only takes a second for an injury to occur.”

Leave the Carving to Adults
Never let children do the carving. Wint suggests letting kids draw a pattern on the pumpkin and having them be
responsible for cleaning out the inside pulp and seeds. When the adults do start cutting, they should always cut away
from themselves and cut in small, controlled strokes.

Sharper is Not Better
“A sharper knife is not necessarily better, because it often becomes wedged in the thicker part of the pumpkin,
requiring force to remove it,” says Wint. “An injury can occur if your hand is in the wrong place when the knife
finally dislodges from the thick skin of the pumpkin. Injuries are also sustained when the knife slips and comes
out the other side of the pumpkin where your hand may be holding it steady.”

Use a Pumpkin Carving Kit
Special kits are available in stores and include small, serrated pumpkin saws that work better because they
are less likely to get stuck in the thick pumpkin tissue. “If they do get jammed and then wedged free,
they are not sharp enough to cause a deep, penetrating cut,” says Wint.

Help for An Injury
Should you cut your finger or hand, bleeding from minor cuts will often stop on its own by applying direct
pressure to the wound with a clean cloth. If continuous pressure does not slow or stop the bleeding after
15 minutes, an emergency room visit may be required.

Copyright © American Society for Surgery of the Hand 2009.

Download the pumpkin carving safety infographic.

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