There is no Halloween tradition quite like carving a pumpkin! Sticking your hands in to scoop out the slimy guts, carving a scary face or design on the side of the pumpkin, and baking the seeds to eat as a snack later is practically mandatory during this season. But sometimes, sharp tools and a hard-to-cut pumpkin can equal painful cuts and dangerous injuries.
According to the ASSH (American Society for Surgery of the Hand), during Halloween, there's a boost in the number of nerve and tendon lacerations on hands and fingers that can require surgical treatment — these injuries may lead to permanent impairment. "The most common accidents associated with pumpkin carving are stab wounds to the fingers and palm… it's often the index finger that's punctured, causing damage to tendons, nerves, or arteries," said Stuart J. Elkowitz, M.D., a hand surgeon at Somers Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine group in Carmel, New York.
Follow these five tips to help keep you safe while carving your pumpkins this year.
Use the Right Tools
Special kits that have been designed specifically for pumpkin carving produce less injuries than using a regular kitchen knife. Carving saws, stencils and scoops have been designed specifically for your pumpkin-carving needs and are less likely to have sharp edges that could deliver a deep, penetrating cut.
Sharper is Not Better
According to Jeffrey Wint, MD, "a sharper knife is not necessarily better, because it often becomes wedged in the thicker part of the pumpkin, requiring force to remove it." If your hand is in the wrong place, this force can easily transfer to an injury when the knife is finally dislodged.
Do Decorative Work Before Removing the Inside of the Pumpkin
Unless you're a carving pro, don't freestyle your design! Create a pattern on the surface of the pumpkin before you start carving. Draw or create a stencil with a sharpie that you can follow with your carving saw.
Take your time and make sure you are carving with control. Plan on budgeting a few hours at least for this activity. Remember, if you take a little extra time to carve the pumpkin, it's still going to be faster than recovering from a nerve or tendon injury.
Don't Burn Yourself!
When putting a candle in the pumpkin after your design is complete, make sure the flame stays far away from your skin. Some pumpkin artists have recommended cutting out the bottom of the pumpkin instead of the top so you can just lower the pumpkin down onto the candle without having to reach your hand inside.
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