Avoiding Hand Injuries When Carving Pumpkins or Turkeys


Avoiding Hand Injuries When Carving Pumpkins or Turkeys

Written By Deana Swanson, OT/L, CHT

There is a lot to celebrate this season and it’s important to avoid hand injuries that will dampen the fun. With Halloween around the corner and Thanksgiving next month, using a knife or cutting utensil safely will make all the difference in preventing a hand injury. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 40% of Halloween injuries seen in 2019 were related to pumpkin carving. Similar carving injuries occur during Thanksgiving.

Halloween Pumpkin Carving Tips

Let’s take a look at Halloween first. Hand injuries are very common when both kids and adults carve pumpkins. A lot of people just go to the kitchen and grab any knife. But it is important to use a carving tool safely.

  1. Keep knife handles and hands clean and dry (to avoid hand slipping).
  2. Cutting utensils in pumpkin carving kits are best (serrated edges make it easier to handle). A sharp knife is not necessarily better because it can become wedged in the thicker part of the pumpkin once it has been carved.
  3. Use a dry cutting surface, so pumpkins don’t slip when carving.
  4. Good lighting, so you can see what you are cutting.
  5. Cut away from the body to avoid injury.
  6. Always provide adult supervision for children.

Thanksgiving Turkey/Meat Carving Tips

Many tips for Halloween pumpkin carving, apply to carving a turkey or meat.

  1. Keep knife handles and hands clean and dry (to avoid hands slipping)
  2. Ensure cutting utensil is sharp. A dull knife means you have to exert more pressure and a slip could result in a serious injury.
  3. Use dry cutting surface so your turkey or meat does not slip around.
  4. Good lighting, so you can see what you are cutting.
  5. Cut away from the body to avoid injury. Your free hand should be placed opposite the side you are carving toward. Never positon your hand underneath the blade to catch the slice of meat.

If you get hurt, assess the wound immediately. Minor cuts can be cared for at home. According to Avery Arora, MD, Surgery of the Hand, Wrist & Elbow, just apply pressure to the wound after cleaning it properly. The bleeding should stop in just a few minutes. Then, apply a first aid ointment and cover the wound.

Here are some cases when you will need to see a doctor or hand surgeon by going to the emergency room:

  • If the bleeding doesn’t stop after 15 minutes of applying pressure or does not slow down drastically, then you will need to go the emergency room.
  • If you notice that your fingers or parts of your hands become numb or tingle for no reason, then contact a doctor.
  • If you are not able to properly clean and cleanse the wound, you will need to visit an emergency room to avoid an infection.
  • If you don’t know whether or not you have had a tetanus shot, you will need to visit a doctor to avoid contracting this painful illness.

While it may not be possible to completely remove the risks of carving and related injuries during Halloween or Thanksgiving, these safety tips will help – so you can enjoy happy and health holidays.

If you need follow-up care from a hand injury, Professional PT specializes in focused hand pain treatment therapy and we are the largest provider of Certified Hand therapy in the Northeast. Visit us at Professional Physical Therapy for an assessment/evaluation.

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