Pumpkin-Carving Safety Tips

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What are the best ways to include younger kids in the pumpkin-carving festivities while keeping everyone safe? I checked with the folks who know a lot about these matters: The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Society for Surgery of the Hand, the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at State University of New York, and the American Society of Hand Therapists. These folks have seen it all, and they have some great tips to help keep your children safe around the pumpkin-carving table.

• Carve your pumpkin in a clean, dry, well-lit area. Wash and thoroughly dry all of the tools that you will use to carve the pumpkin: carving tools, knife, cutting surface and your hands. Any moisture on your tools, hands or table can cause slipping that can lead to injuries.

• Leave the sharp stuff to older kids or parents. Very young children should never carve pumpkins — but they can still help. Little ones can draw on pumpkins with markers and also help clean out the “goop” and seeds from inside the pumpkin.

• Always have adult supervision during carving – even with teens. Doctors often report seeing adolescent patients with injuries from pumpkin carving. Adults feel that the kids are responsible enough to be left on their own, but accidents happen. Remember, it only takes a second for an injury to occur.

• Practice good technique. Always point knives away from you. Keep your free hand away from the direction of the knife. Use slicing motions and never force the knife.

• Consider buying pumpkin-carving tools. Special pumpkin-carving kits are available in stores and include small, serrated pumpkin saws that work better because they are less likely to get stuck in the thick pumpkin tissue.

• Know when to seek emergency help for a cut. Bleeding from minor cuts will often stop on its own when you apply direct pressure to the wound with a clean cloth. If applying continuous pressure does not slow or stop the bleeding after 15 minutes, an emergency room visit may be required.

Kathy Sena is a freelance journalist and mom to a 16-year-old son. She loves to carve pumpkins as long as her husband and son agree to scoop out the goop.