There are few things more symbolic of fall than bright orange pumpkins sitting on doorsteps and the toothy grins they begin to wear around Halloween. Carving those jack-o-lanterns is a fun part of Halloween and an activity greatly enjoyed by the kids.

Without knife safety, pumpkin carving can turn into a nightmare. Research shows that Halloween is a top holiday for ER visits – and it’s all due to hand and finger injuries.

The outside of the pumpkin is uneven, hard and slippery. This is a horrible combination for making smooth, safe cuts. Additionally, when you start pulling the pulp out of the pumpkin, your hands, the knife and the outside of the pumpkin can become slimy.

When said like this, it almost seems safer to avoid pumpkin carving altogether. But, of course, there’s a safe way to go about it. The first step is to use the right knives.

A serrated knife works best for cutting through the hard pumpkin skin and soft flesh. Many injuries come when the knife unexpectedly breaks through the skin and slices your hand on the opposite side. For this reason, choose a small blade, like a serrated steak knife. Also, avoid holding your other hand directly opposite of where the blade could come through.

Like in any other situation involving knives, you want to have complete control of the blade. When you’re carving, this means you need to keep the pumpkin clean and dry. Scoop seeds and pulp into a bag to keep it away from the pumpkin. When you finish removing the pulp, wash and dry your hands and the knife; slimy hands or a wet knife handle can lead to an accidental slip of the blade.

Most Halloween hand injuries occur in children between the ages of 10 to 14. For this reason, doctors recommend that children don’t do the actual carving. While this may be disappointing to the kids, you can still keep them involved in the activity. Let your child pick out the pumpkin, draw the entire design and help clean out the inside of the pumpkin. They’ll get to participate in everything except the actual handling of the knife, and you’ll have the reassurance that only a responsible, knowledgeable adult has the blade.

Liz Childers

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