Dr. Jeffrey Wint is a hand surgeon practicing in Springfield, MA. Dr. Wint specializes in caring for hand, wrist and forearm problems without the option of surgery unless necessary. Many hand surgeons are also experts in diagnosing and caring for shoulder and elbow problems and tend to suggest non-surgical treatments such... more
So you think you're pretty handy when it comes to pumpkin carving. Bet you didn't know this: The trick is not to use a really sharp knife."A sharper knife ... often becomes wedged in the thicker part of the pumpkin, requiring force to remove it," Dr. Jeffrey Wint, a Massachusetts physician, said in a news release from the American Society for Surgery of the Hand. "An injury can occur if your hand is in the wrong place when the knife finally dislodges from the thick skin of the pumpkin." Other horrors lurk when you're carving, Wint said. "Injuries are also sustained when the knife slips and comes out the other side of the pumpkin when your hand may be holding it ready."The hand-surgery group has a reason for trying to spook you: Every Halloween, doctors treat patients who have severely injured their hands from carving pumpkins. Treatment, from surgery through rehabilitation, can take months. So use your head and your pumpkin-carving will be smashing: Opt for a duller knife, carve in a dry, well-lighted area; be an adult (meaning: Kids, let the grownups do the job); and consider a store-bought pumpkin-carving kit with a small serrated saw. Bleeding from minor cuts will typically stop on its own if you apply direct pressure with a clean cloth, the group said. If the bleeding doesn't slow or stop after 15 minutes--and certainly if you're spurting like a "Kill Bill" warrior--head to the emergency room. For more info, including where to find a good hand surgeon, go to www.handcare.org. (You might want to do that before you start carving and bleeding.)
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 as too often, adolescent patients have injuries because adults feel the kids are responsible enough to be left on their own. It only takes a second for an injury to occur. Never let small children do the carving. Try 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.
A 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.
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.
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.
Be safe this Halloween and enjoy the season. Do what you can to avoid these accidental injuries.