5 pumpkin carving safety rules worth following

Published On: Oct 08 2012 09:03:45 PM EDT   Updated On: Oct 09 2012 07:45:00 AM EDT
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

Pumpkin carving can be very dangerous, leaving kids with life long scars. It happened to Christy Wilmot from Green Cove Springs when she was just 14 years old.

"I was carving a pumpkin and using a ten inch chefs knife. My hand was wet and it slipped down the handle and right on down the blade," Wilmot said.

She's lucky because she was left with just a small scar, according to Dr. Vandana Bhide, an Internist and Pediatrician at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville.

Bhide has five rules for families when it comes to pumpkin carving.  First,  she says a child should be at least 15 years of age before carving a pumpkin.

"A study in The Journal Pediatrics showed that most pumpkin carving injuries occurred in kids between the ages of 10 to 14, so it is recommended that only teens older than 14 should be allowed to carve pumpkins, and they should be under supervision of an adult," said Bhide.

Also, use a pumpkin carving kit instead of a kitchen knife to carve pumpkins. Pumpkin carving kits contain serrated knives that can saw through pumpkin rinds and poke holes without being as sharp as a kitchen knife.

"Studies show that most pumpkin carving injuries are puncture wounds of the palms and cuts of the fingers," Bhide said. "Even shallow cuts can be serious because there are so many bones, ligaments and blood vessels in the hand."

Another safety rule, beware of hand placement and always carve the pumpkin in the direction away from the hand stabilizing the pumpkin. Consider cutting out the face of the jack-o-lantern before cutting off the top of the pumpkin. In that case, the non-cutting hand can stabilize pumpkin by holding the top of the intact pumpkin. Also, there will be less likelihood of putting a hand inside of the pumpkin while the face of the jack-o-lantern is being carved, which decreases risk of puncture wounds to fingers

Bhide also said keep floors and hands clean and dry of pumpkin pulp to avoid slips and falls and hand injuries from a slippery cutting device.

"Injuries can occur when the handle of a cutting device gets slippery with pumpkin flesh, causing the hand holding the device to slide down the blade as it saws into the pumpkin," she explained.

Finally, Bhide suggests you use a glowstick or flashlight if you want to place a light inside of the pumpkin.

"There is less risk of fire using a glowstick or flashlight instead of candle inside a jack-o-lantern," she said.

Bhide added that if the hand or finger is injured and bleeding, apply direct pressure with a clean cloth. Then clean the wound with soap and water.  Apply a topical antibiotic and a clean bandage.

As for how to decide if you should go to the emergency room, Bhide says go to the ER if the finger or hand loses feeling, if you can't move it, if the wound is very deep or wide or if the bleeding won't stop after 15 minutes of applying pressure.

Read more pumpkin carving safety information from the American Society for Surgery of the Hand.