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Carve your pumpkin, not your hands!

Jack O’Lantern Safety Tips

One of Halloween’s most treasured traditions is picking that perfect pumpkin to carve into a Jack O’Lantern. But if you don’t do it safely, the only scary thing you might pull off is a deep wound to your hand. The most common accidents associated with pumpkin carving are stab wounds to the fingers and palm. Often, the index finger is punctured which can damage tendons, nerves, or arteries.

Carving this fall favorite is risky because pumpkins can be both slippery and tough. If your knife sticks in the rind, then dislodges abruptly as you tug it out, you may accidentally slice your supporting hand. You can also cut yourself if the knife handle becomes slick with pumpkin pulp, and your hand slides down the blade. A severe enough injury could actually result in treatment runs three to four months from the time of surgery through rehabilitation.

To make sure you don’t spend any time in an emergency room this spooky season, follow these pumpkin carving safety tips:

1. Use the Right Tools

Instead of the knives from your kitchen, use the specialty tools found in a pumpkin-carving kit. They can be purchased online and in a grocery store. These tools are designed for safety; and can saw through rinds, poke holes, and scoop out innards without being razor-sharp. The instruments are also generally small, which makes them easier to control than most knives and to make intricate cuts.

2. Carve Your Pumpkin With Its Top On

That way you won’t put your hand inside and cut toward it. In addition, hold the top of the pumpkin to stabilize it and cut with your carving instrument's blade pointing down. Better still, instead of removing the top of the pumpkin to scoop out the insides, cut a hole in the bottom. If you're using a candle inside your pumpkin, you can then place the carved pumpkin on top of the lit candle—rather than awkwardly reaching inside the pumpkin to light the candle.

3. Keep Things Clean, Dry, and Bright

For pumpkin carving safety, work in a clean, dry, and well-lit area, keep your hands and tools clean and dry, and take your time.

4. Don’t Let Kids Carve

Children 14 and younger should not do the actual carving. For pumpkin carving safety, and to keep them involved in the fun, have them draw the pattern with a marker. They can clean out the pulp and seeds with their hands or a spoon. But make sure an adult does the actual cutting. It’s also important to supervise older teens.

5. Know First Aid

If you or a family member gets cut while carving a pumpkin, apply direct pressure to the injury using a clean, dry cloth. If bleeding doesn't stop in 15 minutes, get to an emergency room or urgent-care clinic. Whether or not the injury requires stitches, it’s a good idea to schedule a follow up consultation with a orthopedic specialist to assure there are no long-lasting effects to the hand.

Bonus Tip:

Burning candles are not only a potential fire hazard, and they can be especially dangerous to kids. This year, skip the flame burns and try illuminating your pumpkin with an LED tea light instead of a candle. Or, give your pumpkin extra pizzazz with a special effects battery operated light.

For more information or to request an appointment, please contact Dr. Patrick McDaid, M.D. at

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