The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

October 17, 2013

Geisinger doc: Careful with the knife when carving pumpkins

By Robert Stoneback
The Danville News

— DANVILLE – Carving a jack o’lantern is a classic seasonal tradition, but even experienced pumpkin artists run the risk of cutting themselves, according to a Geisinger orthopedic hand surgeon.

“It can happen to anyone, whether they’re doing it for the first time or very experienced,” said Dr. Steven Goldberg.

“The thing that’s unique about pumpkin carving injuries is using a sharp, standard kitchen-style knife. When they go to push through the pumpkin a lot of time they’re stabilizing the pumpkin with their other hand,” which frequently results in a puncture wound in the palm of that hand, Goldberg said.

The most typical injury associated with a carving accident is a severed tendon, Goldberg said. These typically require a splint and the injured area to be covered for three months. Many will need a second surgery to fix residual muscle damage as well, which can bring the total recovery time to four to six months. Even then, some will still suffer from a loss of dexterity in the injured area.

“It is almost always going to have some change in their motion with loss of both bending and straightening the finger that will persist long-term even in the best of circumstances,” Goldberg said.

If a cut does occur, the injury should be washed out immediately with soap and water and pressure should be applied to the wound to stop excess bleeding. Sterile gauze and bandages should be applied as well. If the wound spurts blood, instead of just dribbling, it could signify a deeper, arterial cut, as can loss of feeling or motion in the hand or finger.

Goldberg recommends brining any knife cut be brought to the emergency room within six hours of it occurring, to reduce the chance of infection.

To increase safety, Goldberg suggested purchasing a special pumpkin carving tool with a rounded edge and rounded serrations, instead of sharp points. These can be found in most grocery stores for about $3.

Also helpful is to cut in a well-lit area and making sure carving tools are not slippery from the pumpkin’s fruit.

In addition, people who have pets may want to consider using an electric light or a glow stick instead of a candle, to avoid the chance of animals knocking the lit flame on the floor. Light sources can also be safer to add if the bottom of the pumpkin is removed and the pumpkin place on top, instead of cutting a hole at the top, Goldberg said.


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