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Fall is here and that means pumpkin spice lattes, harvest festivals, and family trips to the pumpkin patch. It also means its time to go over how to safely carve a pumpkin. I say this, because every year, without fail, people come in to the ER for stitches after being cut while carving a pumpkin. It happens to everyone!! I am guilty myself. But, here are some tips to bypass those dreaded ER wait times, just to get your hand sewn back together.
Safety Tips to ensure you keep all ten fingers:
- Use a Pumpkin Carving Kit: Some of you might be thinking, well that’s lame Jenny, because I have WAY better knives sitting in my kitchen right now. Why would I waste the money and buy a flimsy pumpkin carving kit? Well, those knives are for cooking, not for carving. The knives that come in the carving kits are specifically made to carve pumpkins and to make carving easier. The knives are small and serrated, which allows them to slice easily through the thick skin of the pumpkin. They are also not very sharp, so if you do happen to cut yourself, it is unlikely that it will cause a deep penetrating injury. This leads me to tip number 2.
Stay away from sharp knives: I know that it is much easier and cheaper to grab one of those sharp kitchen knives to carve your pumpkin, but you need to say no. Sharper knives are more likely to get stuck in the pumpkin, therefore causing you to yank on it to get it out…but WAIT your hand is in the way…and there goes your thumb.
Verify hand placement before carving: rule number one of carving anything is to always cut away from yourself and in small sections. In other words, do not place your hand on the pumpkin to hold it steady and then cut towards your hand. It is a recipe for injury, especially if the knife suddenly hits a soft patch in the pumpkin! Cut in the opposite direction of where your hand is placed. Also, beware of where you place your hand inside the pumpkin to steady it. Sometimes we don’t realize where our hands are on the inside compared to where the knife is carving on the outside. It is very easy to have the knife come out the other side of the pumpkin and collide with your hand. So be extra careful and strategic when placing your hands on the pumpkin.
- Make sure everything is dry: We all know that the inside of a pumpkin is super slimy, which means pretty soon everything is slimy. Try the best you can to keep your hands, tools, and the outside of the pumpkin dry at all times. Keep a towel or a roll of paper towels near by to help dry things off as needed. This will keep your hands and knives from slipping, which in turn will reduce the chances of injury.
Carve in a well-lit area: growing up my siblings and I would often carve our pumpkins in the dark and dank garage. Totally safe right? Wrong! That is a recipe for disaster guys. Let there be light!
Always supervise: You may think that your kids are old enough or know what they’re doing, but lets face it…they cannot be trusted! Do not underestimate them. They are magnets for danger! So supervision is a must or better yet, have them pick out the design and you do the carving for them!
Steps I would take if someone cut themselves:
- Don’t panic! Easier said than done, I know! I warn anybody who faints at the sight of blood to steer clear of the area…you don’t need 2 patients.
- Place a clean paper towel or cloth over the wound and hold pressure directly on the laceration. Direct pressure activates the clotting cascade by stopping the flow of blood (when blood sits…it clots), which in turn creates a blood clot that will stop the bleeding
- Next, I would clean the wound with tap water. Studies show that there is no difference in infection rates when the wound is irrigated with tap water vs sterile saline. In the ER we will have people go over to the sink and use the tap water to irrigate (clean) the wound. The pressure of the faucet is high enough to help clear out bacteria, but not enough to cause tissue damage.
- Use soap to clean around the wound as needed, however the latest evidence based research states that it is no longer necessary to use soap, hydrogen peroxide, or iodine in the wound…unless it’s the zombie apocalypse and that’s all you got!
- OMG there is STILL a chunk of dirt in there? I would grab some tweezers and get that bitch out. If you don’t…you are ASKING for an infection.
- Once the wound is clean it is recommended to place an antibiotic ointment over the wound and cover with a sterile bandage (band-aid or gauze pad). Small, superficial wounds that are not gaping can be managed with a bandage and most likely do not need stitches.
When I would seek medical attention:
- Deep cuts to the palm of the hand, fingers, or wrist. Deep refers to beyond the layers of skin to where you can see fatty tissue, muscle, ligaments, tendons, or bone. The no brainer here is if you happen to actually sever one of your fingers. If you do, it’s recommended to lightly dampen sterile gauze or clean paper towel with sterile saline, contact lens solution, bottled water, or tap water. Wrap the finger in the gauze or paper towel and stick it in a plastic bag. Fill a larger bag or bucket with some water and ice, and then place the bag with the finger in it on top of the ice. DO NOT place the finger directly in water or on ice because it can cause frostbite or damage the skin. Also, do not use dry ice as it is too cold.
- The cut is over a joint. Lacerations over the joint do not heal well without stitches, due to constant movement of the joint.
- Any bleeding that does not stop after 15 minutes. This signifies that the cut is probably too deep or may be arterial and will need sutures.
- Any squirting of blood! Your arteries are high pressure and veins are low pressure; because of this arteries tend to squirt blood, while veins ooze. So if you cut an artery, prepare for a spray that squirts out with each beat of your heart, hold pressure, and go to the ER.
- If you have lost any feeling in your hand or the ability to move your fingers. You have probably injured a nerve or tendon.
- If you have not had a Tetanus shot in the last 5 years…better get one…unless your allergic…then better not…(Tetanus? Like…what is that? Click Here)
- When in doubt, get it checked out!
I hope these tips help! If you haven’t already, check out my post on the Ultimate Guide to Safe Trick or Treating!
Drop your pumpkin carving stories in the comments below!!