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Lourdes Emergency Medicine Physician Gives Safety Tips to Avoid a Halloween Horror Story

You’ve picked the perfect pumpkin, planned a frightening jack-o-lantern. Before you or your children grab a knife to start carving that gourd, take some precautions to prevent your house from becoming a Halloween horror scene.

Every year, emergency rooms see casualties from pumpkin carving accidents. Most are minor shallow cuts that require only a few stitches, but there is risk for serious injury.

“When dealing with the hand, especially little ones, there’s very little margin for error,” said Alfred Sacchetti, MD, Chief of Emergency Services at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center. “A few centimeters can mean the difference between a small cut and a sliced tendon or nerve that requires surgery and possibly long-lasting damage.”

An injury can happen quickly, so it’s important to take your time and be attentive. Dr. Sacchetti advises:

  • Adult supervision is a must. Children should not be allowed to carve. They can do other jobs, like drawing the design on the pumpkin with a marker or scooping out the seeds.
  • Keep your work surface, pumpkin and tools clean and dry to avoid slipping that could cause an injury.
  • Use a pumpkin-carving kit with a serrated knife rather than a sharp kitchen blade. A serrated knife requires less force to cut, reducing your chances of getting hurt. “A sharp knife can easily become stuck in the pumpkin, and you can hurt yourself struggling to dislodge it,” said Dr. Sacchetti. “Injuries also can be sustained if the knife slips and comes out the other side of the pumpkin where your hand is holding it steady.”
  • Do not put your hand inside the pumpkin near the carving blade.
  • Use newspaper to collect seeds and pulp to prevent them from falling on the ground where someone could slip and fall.

“If you do suffer a carving injury, apply direct pressure to the wound with a clean cloth,” said Dr. Sacchetti. “If the bleeding does not stop within 10 to 15 minutes, if you can’t move your finger normally or if your hand feels numb, go to the nearest emergency room.”

Most cuts or injuries to the hand or fingers will stop bleeding after 5 to 10 minutes with some firm pressure with a clean dishcloth or paper towel. A visit to the emergency room or a doctor may be the best solution if the cut is very deep or does not stop bleeding.

Signs of a more seriously damaged finger or hand include numbness in the fingertip or noticing that your finger won’t bend or straighten normally. In some situations, early treatment may be necessary to prevent serious infection.


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