Sept 29, 2005

Jennifer Gremmels

Hand Surgeons Offer a No-Trick Method for Treating Your Family to Pumpkin Carving Safety


Rosemont, Ill. - The American Society for Surgery of the Hand (ASSH) urges pumpkin carvers to use caution this Halloween season and take steps to prevent hand injuries when carving pumpkins.

“While many people enjoy pumpkin carving, it can also be dangerous,” said Alexander Marcus, MD of Orthopedic Associates of Central Jersey, in Edison, New Jersey. “Each Halloween hand surgeons treat lacerations of skin, tendons, arteries and nerves because the wrong carving tools are used.” Safe practices, including inexpensive carving tools, may reduce the number and severity of injuries.

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

Carve at 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.

Leave the Carving to Adults

Never let children do the carving, allow kids to draw a pattern on the pumpkin and have 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.

Larger and Sharper is not Better

A larger and sharper knife is not necessarily better because it often becomes wedged in the thicker part of the pumpkin, requiring force to remove it. 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

According to a research study conducted by Dr. Marcus, pumpkin carving saws require less force to pierce pumpkins than serrated and plain kitchen knives. At these forces, pumpkin carving tools were less likely to cause injuries. However, even pumpkin carving tools may wound hands so general safety rules should still be followed.

Use a Pumpkin Decorating Kit

The safest option is pumpkin painting or decorating. Kids can express their creativity with paint and other items that can be glued or attached to the pumpkin.

Should you cut your finger or hand, bleeding from minor cuts will often stop on their 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, or if the sensation, color or function of your finger(s) is otherwise diminished, an emergency room visit may be required.

About Hand Surgeons
Hand surgeons have received specialized additional training in the treatment of hand problems in addition to their board certified specialty training in orthopedic surgery, plastic surgery, or general surgery. To become members of the American Society for Surgery of the Hand, hand surgeons must have completed a full year of such additional training and must pass a rigorous certifying examination. Many hand surgeons also have expertise with problems of the elbow, arm, and shoulder. Some hand surgeons treat only children, some treat only adults, and some treat both. Common problems treated include carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, wrist pain, sports injuries of the hand and wrist, fractures of the hand, wrist, and forearm, and trigger fingers. Other problems treated by hand surgeons include arthritis, nerve and tendon injuries, and congenital limb differences (birth defects). Not all problems treated by a hand surgeon need surgery. Hand surgeons often recommend non-surgical treatments, such as medication, splints, therapy, and injections. Hand surgeons are specialists devoted to hand care.

About the ASSH
The mission of the American Society for Surgery of the Hand (ASSH) is to advance the science and practice of hand surgery through education, research and advocacy on behalf of patients and practitioners. Founded in 1946, the American Society for Surgery of the Hand is the oldest medical specialty society in the United States devoted entirely to continuing medical education related to hand surgery.