Amita Agarwal, Occupational Therapist and Certified Hand Therapist with Wheaton Performance Center at St. Francis, provides the following helpful tips for carving pumpkins this season.
With the fall weather upon us, a lot of us are buying pumpkins or planning to carve them with our children/grandchildren. Pumpkin carving is a fun activity but sometimes leads to hand injuries. And these injuries are not just minor cuts and scrapes.
Jeffrey Wint, MD, a hand surgeon with The Hand Center of Western Massachusetts, Springfield, MA says each fall, his office will have four to five patients — both adults and children — who come in with severe injuries to their hands and fingers. Unfortunately, many of these patients never have 100 percent return of finger or hand function due to the severity of their injuries.
Dr. Wint states the treatment can often run three to four months from the time of surgery through rehabilitation. The American Society for Surgery of the Hand (ASSH)* lists more suggestions to help prevent common carving-related cuts and injuries:
- Prep your pumpkin properly. 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.
- Always have adult supervision. All too often, we see adolescent patients with injuries because adults feel the kids are responsible enough to be left on their own. Even though the carving may be going well, it only takes a second for an injury to occur.
- Leave the carving to the grown-ups. Never let children do the actual “carving." Professionals suggest letting kids draw a pattern on the pumpkin and have them be responsible for cleaning out the inside pulp and seeds. When adults do start cutting the pumpkin, they should always cut away from themselves and cut in small, controlled strokes.
- Hold the pumpkin with caution. Injuries often happen when a person cuts toward their hand or when the knife slips out the other side of the pumpkin where it is being held. And using a sharper knife is not necessarily better because it often becomes wedged in the thicker part of the pumpkin, requiring force to remove it. Make small controlled cuts and using tools that cannot reach the other side helps reduce these risks. You can also use a carving board to steady the pumpkin.
- Have the right carving tools. Use a pumpkin carving kit. Special pumpkin carving 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. Manufacturers of these products share if the saws do get jammed and then wedged free, they are not sharp enough to cause a deep, penetrating cut.
Help for a pumpkin carving injury
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, an urgent care or emergency room visit may be required.