Fall and pumpkins go together. The smells of pumpkin pie wafting from the kitchen or the taste of a favorite pumpkin and spice beverage make many people feel nostalgic.

Or maybe you appreciate the use of colorful pumpkins in fall décor to create elegant holiday centerpieces or harvest-themed entryways.

If you are like many people, you may carve jack-o’-lanterns to illuminate your yard for Halloween. But carving pumpkins for the All Hallows’ Eve festivities increases the risk of ghastly injuries.

Pumpkin-carving is one reason emergency rooms see a spike in the number of people treated for hand injuries in October and November. The most common injuries include:

  • Minor cuts or lacerations in the non-dominant hand
  • Stab and puncture wounds in the hand
  • Severed tendons and ligaments
  • Permanent nerve damage in hands and fingers
  • Flexor and extensor tendon injuries
  • Loss of function and motion in the hand

Many of these injuries need stitches. But, some need the expertise of a qualified hand surgeon to restore movement and function.

Whether your family carves pumpkins for Halloween fun or you enjoy cooking pumpkin pies or squash casserole, The American Society for Surgery of the Hand recommends you use caution when carving or cutting the fall cucurbits. Download the ASSH’s Pumpkin Carving Safety infographic.

Take precautions to avoid serious hand injuries.

The characteristically tough outer skin and the dense flesh inside pumpkins and squash increase the risk of injury. Here are six tips to keep your hands safe while preparing your favorite dishes or carving your Halloween masterpiece.

#1. Keep your hands and handles dry to avoid slips and stabs.

As you cut the pumpkin, the juice from the vegetable will coat your hands and knife handle. The knife may slip off of your grasp causing injury. Frequently, use a towel to dry the cutting surface, knife handles, and your hands. This simple action will keep your knife from slipping and accidentally stabbing your non-dominant hand.

#2. Light it up.

We’re not just talking about the pumpkin, but your pumpkin carving area. Let’s face it, dim light and knives only work well together in horror stories. Do not let your pumpkin carving fun become a gruesome event. Keep the area well lit, so you can see what you are doing.

If you plan to light up your jack-o-lantern, Pumpkin Masters suggests using a battery-operated tea-light candle to illuminate the inside of your carved pumpkin. If you prefer to light your pumpkin the old-fashioned way, Pumpkin Masters suggests cutting the bottom out of the pumpkin rather than the top. This technique helps you avoid burns as you place the pumpkin over the top of the candle instead of placing the candle inside the pumpkin.

#3. If you use a knife, use a dull blade for safety.

To carve a pumpkin or cut a squash, you need to apply force to penetrate the tough outer rind or skin. When you use a sharp knife, not only can you pierce the vegetable’s thick skin, but you also may slice your hand wide open if the knife slips or moves through the interior of vegetable faster than you expect. A dull blade may still cause injury, but may not cut your hand as easily or deeply.

Dr. Stuart J. Elkowitz, whose quote appeared in a Consumer Reports’ article, suggests that people carve their pumpkins before they hollow out the inside. Carving in this order prevents the knife from nicking your hand while it is supporting the pumpkin from the inside.

#4. Use a specially designed pumpkin carving kit.

Better yet, use a specially designed pumpkin carving kit. Most kits include a pumpkin saw designed to slice through the tough outer skin. Other tools included in the kit may help you create a unique jack-o’-lantern design. See how easy it can be at http://pumpkinmasters.com/pumpkin-carving-videos/pumpkin-carving-101

#5. Pumpkin carving should be an adults-only activity

Only adults should wield knives. But children can still be involved in a pumpkin carving tradition. Have the child in your life draw the pattern on the pumpkin and scoop out the seeds. You can also give the child authority by asking him or her to be the hand-drying official. Instruct them to remind you to dry your hands several times during the carving process; they will love it.

#6. Consider decorating alternatives

Remember, carving is optional. You do not have to carve a pumpkin to decorate it. Many people who live with small children let the children decorate their pumpkins with paints or markers. The children still experience the fun without the risk of injury.

Use first-aid if things go wrong

If the knife does slip and you suffer a stab, puncture or cut, wash the wound with clean, warm water.

Apply pressure to the wound using a clean cloth or paper towel. The bleeding should stop within 15 minutes. If it does not, you should go to a Walk-In Clinic, the emergency room or call your primary care provider.

If the cut is more than 1/4-inch-deep or is in a place that hinders healing, it may need stitches. Contact your primary care provider or visit a Walk-In or urgent care clinic.

If you experience numbness or loss of motion, contact an orthopedic hand surgeon. When tendons or ligaments are injured or severed, they need surgical repair. For the best results, deep or movement limiting injuries should be treated as soon as possible.

Call 9-1-1 for more serious injuries.

Fall festivals and holidays can be fun, family times. Do not let a carving accident derail your family’s plans.

For other Halloween Safety Tips http://orthokids.org/Health-Fitness/Halloween-Safety