Whether you’re a jack o’lantern traditionalist or into detailed stencil designs, one thing should be at the forefront of every pumpkin carver’s mind - safety.
Holiday traditions don’t typically involve knives, so this Halloween custom brings the potential for cutting yourself if you’re not careful. Add to it that you’re cutting a rounded, slippery object in unusual directions and at strange angles, you end up putting your fingers and hands at risk.
The most common pumpkin carving injuries are lacerations of the tendons that bend the fingers and nerves that supply sensation to the fingers – an injury that needs to be treated surgically and can necessitate months of rehabilitation. Rachel S. Rohde, M.D., a Beaumont orthopedic surgeon who specializes in hand surgery, provides the following tips when carving your pumpkins:
Cut Away from Your Hand and Body
“Never put your other hand in the line of the knife,” warns Dr. Rohde. “Use the top of the pumpkin to keep it in place while you carve. Holding anywhere else, especially the inside of the pumpkin, can lead to injuries.”
Also, remember to take your time and allow yourself enough space to carve safely. Keep a good distance from anybody else carving so you don’t bump or lean on to someone else’s tools. The knife often gets stuck, too, so be extra cautious when trying to remove it from the pumpkin.
Keep Wet and Dry Washcloths Handy
Getting into the guts of the pumpkin can be a mess. A slippery surface and wet tools aren’t the ideal situation when dealing with sharp instruments. Occasionally wipe down the pumpkin, your hands and tools often to keep a good grip on the situation!
If the table is in disarray or unorganized, take a minute to clean up before continuing with your pumpkin carving.
Leave the Knives to the Adults
Pumpkin carving kits are extremely common, but the tools inside (while brightly colored and small) are still best left in the hands of the adults. Keep the kids busy by letting them scoop out the pumpkin or gather the seeds to bake later!
Dr. Rohde adds, “Older children and teens are still relatively inexperienced with knives, so if you’re comfortable with them carving, close supervision is a must. And remember, carving is only one option for decorating pumpkins; offer fingerpaints or stickers to little ones that want to be hands-on and in on the action.”