Jack-o'-lanterns are an essential part of Halloween decorations, whether you're going to create a sophisticated, over-the-top masterpiece or more of a homespun, simple look. No matter the effort, you need to be careful, because pumpkin carving can be dangerous.
According to the American Society for Surgery of the Hand, each October pumpkin carving results in hospitals dealing with four to five times more hand injuries than normal. Cuts, lacerations, and puncture wounds to the hand can damage nerves, tendons, and joints.
Read our advice and watch our video (below) so you can avoid a pumpkin-carving nightmare:
- Don't let young kids carve. Children under 14 shouldn't do the actual carving. Instead, have them draw the pattern with a marker and clean out the pulp and seeds with their hands or a spoon. It's important to supervise older teens, too.
- Use the right tools. Consumer Reports tested pumpkin-carving kits a few years ago and found that specialty tools do a good job sawing through pumpkin rinds, poking holes, and scooping out innards without being razor sharp. The instruments are also generally small, which made them easier to control than most knives.
- Take precautions. Carve in a clean, dry, well-lit area, keep your hands and tools clean and dry, and take your time.
- Do decorative work before taking off the top of the pumpkin. Cutting the pattern on the surface before gutting the pumpkin will reduce the likelihood that you'll put your hand in the pumpkin, where it could be vulnerable to injury.
- Know first aid. In case someone gets cut when carving a pumpkin, apply direct pressure to the injury using a clean dry cloth. If bleeding doesn't stop in 15 minutes, get to an emergency room or urgent-care clinic.
Hand Surgeons Warn of Pumpkin Carving Dangers [American Society for Surgery of the Hand]
Epidemiology of Pediatric Holiday-Related Injuries Presenting to US Emergency Departments [Pediatrics]
Halloween Safety Tips That Are No Trick [American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons]