Friday, October 5, 2012

Safe pumpkin carving

What can be more fun than Halloween?  

I grew up in a small town, and remember Halloween being much simpler than it is today.  My costume was always an old sheet that was made into a “ghost costume”…..and it didn’t matter if it was white, striped, or flowered.  I went to each of the neighbor’s houses with my big brother (much to his chagrin), with a brown paper bag in-tow, hoping to get as much chocolate as possible!  It was a time and place where going out after dark was safer.

Afterwards, we would pour the contents out on the floor to see who had the most, and had to “divvy” it up if one had more than the other.  MORE insult to my big brother!

But the biggest treat was carving the Jack-0’-lantern.  Daddy would bring a pumpkin home a couple of days before Halloween, and we would work on the picnic table in the backyard when he got home.  We got to scoop the “guts” out after the top was cut, and it inevitably led to a pumpkin guts fight. We were allowed to draw the design on the pumpkin, and then he would cut it out, with the finishing touch being a candle inside.  It was placed on the front porch steps to frighten everyone until it outlived its scariness.

Yes, Halloween pumpkin carving can be great fun. But too often it can also turn into a scary visit to the emergency department.  Injuries to the fingers and hands are the most common accidents associated with pumpkin carving, and can cause damage to the tendons, arteries, and nerves.  This type of injury can be serious, often requiring surgery and months of rehabilitation.

Follow these simple safety tips from the American Society for Surgery of the Hand for a booooo-tiful Halloween:

Let the adults do the carving – let the kids clean out the inside of the pumpkin.  The recommended age for carving a pumpkin is 14 years and older

Carve the pumpkin in a clean, dry, well-lit area – any moisture on your tools, hands, or table can cause the pumpkin to slip leading to injuries

Use a pumpkin carving kit – the kits contain a small serrated pumpkin saw that are less likely to get stuck in the thick rinds of the pumpkin, are not sharp enough to cause a deep, penetrating wound

Always have adult supervision – injuries occur when adults feel that kids are responsible enough to be left alone, but REMEMBER:  Injuries can happen in seconds!

Decorate pumpkins without carving – Kids can use markers, paint, sparkles and glue, pumpkin sticker kits, and templates.  Get creative!  The internet has lots of great suggestions for an injury-free Halloween.

Use a battery operated candle in your pumpkin – creates the candle effect without the risk of fire and smoke

That’s it for now; hope everyone has a safe and spirited Halloween!

Debbie Nichols, RN, BSN, is the Injury Prevention/Trauma Outreach Coordinator for Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth.

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