Keep your pumpkin carving casualty-free

You've picked out the perfect pumpkin. You've planned the scariest jack-o-lantern design ever. You've laid out your blades. Now, before you start carving, take a few precautions to prevent your Halloween from morphing into a slasher horror movie.

Emergency rooms and hand clinics see pumpkin-carving casualties every year, most requiring surgery. Slashes and gashes to the palms, fingers, tendons, nerves, arteries and skin can cause long-term disability in a few fingers or an entire hand. This year, play it safe with the following suggestions from the Providence Hand Clinic:

  • Adult supervision is a must. Children should never be allowed to carve pumpkins. Younger kids can still have fun and get involved by drawing their own pumpkin designs and scooping out the pulp, or by decorating a pumpkin with paint, decals and other “bling” instead of carving. Older teens may be permitted to carve, but should still have adult supervision – and assistance when needed.
  • Set up your carving station in a well-lit area.
  • Clean the inside of the pumpkin to at least an inch from the outer wall to reduce the amount of force needed to pierce the pumpkin skin.
  • Use a pumpkin-carving kit with serrated saws rather than a kitchen knife. Research suggests that less force is needed when using serrated carving saws. The more force you have to use – and the longer the knife – the more likely your hand is to slip over the blade.
  • Keep your work surface, your pumpkin, your hands and your tools clean and dry to prevent slipping over the blade. If anything starts to get slimy with pumpkin goo, take a moment to wash it and dry it completely before starting in again.
  • Don't put your hand inside the pumpkin near the carving blade – that could lead to an accidental stab wound to the hand.
  • Use newspaper to collect seeds and pulp and prevent them from falling to the floor, where they could cause someone to slip and fall.
  • If you do suffer a carving injury, apply direct pressure to the wound. If bleeding does not stop within 15 minutes, if you can't move a finger normally, or if sensation is impaired, seek assistance at your local immediate care clinic or emergency room right away.

Remember: a safe Halloween is in your hands!