Now that pumpkin patches are filled with large orange gourds, we automatically start thinking of Halloween and jack-o-lanterns. Pumpkin carving is a fun family activity but it needs to be done with caution, especially if children will be helping. Emergency room physicians and hand surgeons have become accustomed to injuries from pumpkin carving this time of year.
According to the American Society for Surgery of the Hand (ASSH), pumpkin carving can result in serious lacerations to the hand and also injuries to bones and tendons if precautions are not taken. The most common accidents associated with pumpkin carving are stab wounds to the fingers and palm. A study conducted by the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, OH examined holiday-related pediatric injuries. The study results indicated that Halloween was one of the top three holidays producing ER visits, with the highest percentage of injuries being to the finger and hand. Of those injuries, 33.3% were lacerations and 20.1% were fractures. Children ages 10-14 sustained the greatest proportion of injuries at 30.3%.
An injury can happen very quickly, which is why it is necessary to be cautious and attentive while carving pumpkins. The ASSH recommends the following safety tips while carving:
• Carve in a clean, dry, well-lit area to prevent slipping of the pumpkin or the knife.
• Always provide adult supervision for children.
• Let adults handle all carving. Children can help draw patterns, scoop out the insides and decorate the pumpkin once it has been carved.
• A sharper knife is not necessarily better because it can become wedged in the thicker part of the pumpkin, requiring force to remove it.
• Use a pumpkin carving kit that includes a small, serrated pumpkin saw. They are less likely to get stuck in the thick pumpkin tissue. These types of kits are recommended by most physician organizations such as the American Society for Surgery of the Hand, American Academy of Family Physicians and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
If an injury were to occur, the ASSH recommends the hand be elevated above the heart and direct pressure applied to the wound with a clean cloth to stop the bleeding. If continuous pressure does not slow or stop the flow within 15 minutes, a trip to an emergency room may be necessary. If there is any numbness in the fingers or an inability to move the fingers, then the individual should go to an emergency room. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons believes it may be wise to follow-up with a hand surgeon to make sure everything is okay and nothing needs to be repaired.
While some of the injuries are minor, many involve nerves and tendons in the fingers that require complex surgery for reconstruction and months of therapy for recovery. In situations with severe lacerations, an orthopaedic hand specialist will be brought in to assess the injury and check if a tendon, blood vessel, nerve or combination of the three have been severed and will determine if surgery is required.
Be sure to follow the above safety tips to have a safe, accident-free pumpkin carving experience!
The Orthopaedic Associates of Michigan have experience working with injuries of all types. Please call 616-459-7101 to set up an appointment.
Sources: American Society for Surgery of the Hand, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, PubMed.gov – Epidemiology of pediatric holiday-related injuries presenting to US emergency departments.