There’s nothing like carving a pumpkin to get into the Halloween mood. But if you don’t do it safely, you might spend time in an emergency room instead of out trick-or-treating with the rest of the witches, ghosts, and goblins.
Each October hospitals treat four to five times more hand injuries than usual as a result of pumpkin-carving injuries. “The most common accidents associated with pumpkin carving are stab wounds to the fingers and palm,” says Stuart J. Elkowitz, M.D., a hand surgeon at Somers Orthopaedic Surgery & Sports Medicine Group in Carmel, N.Y., who repairs the resulting gashes every Halloween. It’s often the index finger that’s punctured, he says, causing damage to tendons, nerves, or arteries.
Why is carving so dangerous? Pumpkins can be both slippery and tough. Cuts can occur when a knife sticks in the rind, then abruptly dislodges as you tug it out, slicing your supporting hand. Or you can cut yourself if the handle gets slippery with pumpkin pulp, causing your hand to slide down the blade as you push the knife into the pumpkin.
Here are five ways to avoid a pumpkin-carving nightmare: