Use caution during the Halloween season, and take steps to prevent hand injuries when carving.
"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 to carve the pumpkin: 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 pumpkin carving 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 a Pumpkin Carving 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.
Visit the Find a Hand Surgeon pages to locate a hand doctor near you.
Copyright © American Society for Surgery of the Hand 2009.