Review Hand Safety Tips Before Carving Pumpkins This Halloween

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Families will visit pumpkin patches this month and then take pumpkins home to carve them into jack-o-lanterns. While pumpkin carving is as much a part of Halloween as trick-or-treating, the American Society for Surgery of the Hand (ASSH) has some tips for how to prevent hand injuries so the whole family can safely enjoy the experience.

"Each Halloween hand surgeons treat patients with cuts, or more severe injuries of the tendons, arteries or nerves because of carving mishaps," said Dr. L. Andrew Koman, president of ASSH. "Pumpkin carving can be safe, but parents need to be on guard for potential dangers. There are ways to avoid many of these injuries."

The ASSH urges safe practices when pumpkin carving this season and has outlined the following measures to help parents insure the family is safe while carving.

1. Carve in a Clean, Dry and 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 the table can cause slipping that can lead to injuries.

2. Leave the Carving to Adults

Never let children do the carving. Parents may 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.

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3. Pick Utensils Carefully

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. People are also injured when the knife slips and comes out the other side of the pumpkin where a hand may be holding it steady.

4. Use a Pumpkin Carving Kit

According to research done by hand surgeons, pumpkin carving saws require less force to pierce the pumpkins than a serrated or a plain kitchen knife. Therefore, the carving saws may be less likely to cause injury(1). Injuries may still occur so families must exercise caution with any carving tool.

5. 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.

If an Injury Occurs

If an injury occurs such as a cut on the finger or hand, applying pressure to the wound with a clean cloth will often stop the bleeding. If continuous pressure does not slow or stop the bleeding after 15 minutes, or if the sensation, color or function of the finger(s) is otherwise diminished, an emergency room visit may be required.

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