Four Tips for Avoiding Hand Cuts During Pumpkin Carving

Fear and blood at Halloween is all fun and games when it is theatrics, but when it becomes real life, it is no fun.

By Dr. John P. Schilling


hand cuts | Muir Orthopaedic Specialists | Walnut Creek | Pumpkin Carving safetyNothing gets you quite into the Halloween spirit like carving a pumpkin. But without the proper safety techniques, you could end up in a real frightening situation and spend time in the emergency room. Each October, hospitals see an increase in hand cuts and injuries in both children and adults as a result of pumpkin carving accidents.

A 10-year study published in 2010 found that of all holidays, Halloween ranked as the fourth highest in number of children emergency room visits. While these are not all due to pumpkin carving, finger/hand injuries accounted for the greatest proportion of Halloween injuries. Aside from resulting in blood and possibly stiches, finger cuts and palm stabs can be deep enough to injure nerves and tendons.

Don’t spend time in the emergency room; enjoy the holiday by following these hand safety tips while carving your pumpkin into a spooky jack-o’-lantern.

1. Carve in a well-lit, clean, dry area

Prior to starting carving a pumpkin you should wash and fully dry all of the items you will be using. This includes the surface you will be carving on, the carving tools, the pumpkin and your hands. Moisture left on any of these items can lead to injuries due to slipping.

2. Don’t let the kids carve

The pumpkin carving should always be done by the adult. Children should still be involved and can help with the stencil or with painting and other noncarving decorating. They can also help with cleaning out the pulp and seeds.

When cutting the pumpkin, adults should take their time and carve away from themselves with small, controlled strokes. And keep the inquisitive child at a safe distance from the action.

hand cuts | Muir Orthopaedic Specialists | Walnut Creek | Father Daughter carving pumpkin3. Use a pumpkin carving kit

Spending the extra money on a pumpkin-carving kit could save a sliced tendon and a ruined experience for your children, not to mention money down the road in medical expenses. The pumpkin carving tools are designed to saw through the rinds, scoop out the pulp and seeds and poke holes without being razor-sharp.

If you use your own knife, using a sharp one is not always better. A sharp knife often becomes wedged in the thick rind of the pumpkin, which requires force to remove it, which can lead to injury.

4. Know first aid for hand cuts

In case someone does get cut while pumpkin carving, it is important to apply pressure to the wound with a dry, clean cloth. If the person is wearing a ring or bracelet, remove those in order not to impeded blood flow and swelling. You can clean the cut with warm water and soap and apply an antibiotic and sterile bandage.

If the bleeding does not stop after 15 minutes, go to an emergency room or urgent-care clinic. If the cut has severed part of a finger, place that part in a plastic bag, apply ice and get finger part and person to the emergency room.

By following these simple safety tips, you can avoid such a scary scenario and enjoy a fun Halloween.

See our tips to avoiding common hand injuries year round