Now that's scary: 6 tips for safely carving pumpkins

Hand injuries ramp up during Halloween. Carving jack o’ lanterns is a fun family tradition, but pumpkin carving accidents can cause serious cuts, puncture wounds, and damage to nerves and tendons.

Prevent a trip to the emergency room by following these tips: 

  1. Skip the knife. Kids like to be hands on, so give them a pumpkin to decorate with paint, glitter, or markers, instead of carving.
  2. Supervise. If you’ve decided your kids are ready to carve, supervise carefully and coach them through the process. Encourage them to work slowly and follow the good carving habits listed below. Even teenagers should have a parent present.
  3. Use the right tools. Research shows that the pumpkin carving tools found in holiday kits cause fewer and less severe injuries than regular kitchen knives.* Consumer Reports also gives these kits a thumbs up for effectiveness, without being overly sharp. 
  4. Saw, don’t slice. When carving a pumpkin, saw back and forth with gentle force. Applying a lot of force or trying to make big slices increases the chance of injury.
  5. Cut away. Cut away from the hand holding the pumpkin. Otherwise, the knife could hit a soft spot in the pumpkin and continue right into your hand. Ouch!
  6. Dry off. Simply put, pumpkin guts are slimy and slippery. And that leads to accidents. Keep a good supply of towels nearby so you can keep your pumpkin dry and your grip steady.
Once your pumpkin is carved and ready for the window, place battery operated lights or glow sticks inside. These are safer, longer-lasting alternative to candles.

* The Safety of Pumpkin Carving Tools, Preventive Medicine, 2004, vol. 38, iss. 6.

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