Pumpkin Carving Safety Tips

You probably have fond memories of carving pumpkins as a kid. But every year at this time, emergency room physicians and hand surgeons see a rise in injuries related to this Halloween tradition. So we complied some tips to help keep this activity safe for the whole family.

Gather the right tools for the job. Pumpkin-carving kits are your best bet. They typically include small saws and sharp plastic tools that are easier to control. Razor-sharp kitchen knives tend to get stuck in the thick part of the pumpkin, requiring force to remove them. Opt for sturdy, manageable-sized tools. Smaller tools give you more control when making intricate cuts.

Adults carve, kids decorate. It’s no fun to just watch, so let your kids draw a pattern on the pumpkin, scoop the pulp, and decorate the carved masterpiece. Since most injuries happen to kids between the ages of 10 and 14, let little ones “learn” while you do the carving. Your older teen may be ready to carve under adult supervision, just be sure they use short-handled tools that are kept clean and dry.

Prepare to the workspace. Make sure your workstation is well let so you can see what you’re doing from any angle. Have a wet washcloth and paper towels on hand to wipe down and dry the table, pumpkin, hands and tools periodically. The slippery pulp can be a recipe for disaster! Take your time and take a break when your hands are tired.

Carve first, then remove the top. This might seem backwards, but it will prevent you from reaching inside the pumpkin while carving. Plus, the pumpkin might feel sturdier with the top on, and you’ll be able to grasp the top and stem for stability.

Watch hand placement. Most injuries occur when cutting toward your hand or when the knife pokes through the pumpkin’s flesh. Make shallow, controlled cuts to reduce the risk of the knife puncturing the other side.

Oops… You slipped. Even with precautions, accidents happen. If you cut your hand or finger, thoroughly clean the wound, apply an antibiotic ointment and a clean bandage. If the bleeding doesn’t stop with applied pressure after 15 minutes or you lose sensation, head to the emergency room.

If all this sounds too risky, you can always create decorated pumpkins using paper cutouts, stencils, glitter, paint, stick-on eyes and other baubles. They’ll last for weeks and look just as festive as a carved pumpkin.