Common Pumpkin Carving Injuries & Safety Tips to Prevent Them

Pumpkin carving is a fun and festive tradition that many families use around Halloween to bring people together and have some creative, if messy, fun. As you prepare for this tradition, it’s important to remember that there are some risks when you carve pumpkins, so considering your family’s safety can prevent injuries and create a better festive atmosphere for everyone involved. Keep reading to learn more about common pumpkin carving injuries and safety tips to prevent them.

Common Pumpkin Carving Injuries

When you’re carving pumpkins, the most likely injuries you may experience occur on and near the hands, wrists, and lower forearms. These injuries include minor cuts and lacerations to your hands, stab and puncture wounds, and cut ligaments and tendons. You may also experience muscle strains and strains from carving the pumpkin. To avoid these injuries, there are several practices you can use.

Encourage Adults to Cut the Pumpkin

One way to prevent injuries from carving pumpkins is to let adults, not children, do the cutting and carving. While many people allow children to carve pumpkins, some tools you use are sharp and in the hands of a child can create more injuries. You can still include children in the festivities by allowing them to scoop out the inside of the pumpkin and draw the carving pattern for an adult to cut. If you allow your children to cut the pumpkin themselves, monitor them closely and teach them how to use the tools safely before you carve the pumpkins.

Use a Pumpkin Carving Kit

Many pumpkin carving injuries occur from using the wrong tools for carving. Many people choose to use knives, which work well in the kitchen but aren’t the best for carving pumpkins. Instead of a knife, consider buying a pumpkin carving kit, which comes with a variety of tools you can use to carve the pumpkin more easily. These kits often include several tools for cutting the pumpkin and others to help you create the cutting pattern and scoop out the insides.

Keep Your Hands Dry

Another practice you can implement is to keep your hands as dry as possible. Many of the common injuries from pumpkin carving occur because your hands can slip off the tools you’re using. If you want to encourage children to be part of the process, designated them as the official hand dryer, and tell them to remind you every now and again to dry your hands.

Keep Your Carving Area Illuminated

Another way you can prevent injuries is to keep your carving area well-lit. This allows you to see into the pumpkin as you carve it, keep your hands and arms away from sharp tools, and monitor older children as they carve the pumpkins. You might choose to carve your pumpkins outside during the day or inside a well-lit room if it’s already dark,

Use a Dull-Bladed Knife

A tip many people are unaware of is that a sharper knife isn’t better for pumpkin carving. Often, a sharp knife may go into the pumpkin easily, then become stuck when you want to remove it. If you need to pull on the knife a lot to remove it, then it’s better to take a dull-bladed knife, such as the one you use for spreading butter, and wedge it into the same space as your sharp knife to create more space and allow you to remove the first knife more easily.

Be Patient

Patience is very important when you carve a pumpkin because of the sharp tools you use. If you rush, you increase the chances of injuring yourself. Patience can also help you create better designs for your pumpkin and allow you to execute them more effectively.

Use Controlled Motions

Small, controlled motions can help you reduce the risk of injury by giving you better control of the tool you’re using. Just like when your knife is stuck, applying a large amount of force to any of the pumpkin carving tools can create a situation where an injury is likely. When you use small motions, you can monitor your progress more effectively and observe how close your hands are to the tools you’re using.

Choose a Stable and Sturdy Location

Another condition that can lead to injuries is setting pumpkins on unstable furniture or in places that aren’t easy to reach. This can cause your pumpkin to move around too much and cause injuries. To create a safer environment, you can choose a sturdy table, or use the ground to keep the pumpkin from moving around while you’re carving into it.

Avoid Putting Your Hand Inside the Pumpkin While Carving

While you carve your pumpkin, don’t put your hand inside it. This can lead you to puncture or cut your hand accidentally because you can’t see where either your hand or your tool is until it’s too late. Even with good lighting and awareness of how sharp your tools are, this makes it easier to injure your hand or wrist.

Consider Alternative Decorations

While many people see carved pumpkins as traditional decorations, there are many other options you can use to create a festive atmosphere around your home. Getting lights and spooky decorations from the store can encourage everyone to enjoy the holiday without risking injury from carving pumpkins. If you still want to use pumpkins, you can also try painting the outside of small pumpkins to create creepy and exciting decorations.

Now that The Hand and Wrist Institute has described common pumpkin carving injuries and safe practices for preventing them, we’re happy to offer our services. You can contact us today to learn about who we are and the services we offer. We’re happy to help you find the orthopedic care you need for your hands and wrists, including carpal tunnel treatment, locating the sources of numbness in your arms and hands, and treating athletes after an injury. You can also visit us at any of our locations.

Jack O’Lantern Line-up by Brett L. is licensed with CC BY-SA 2.0

Dr. John Knight
Dr. John Knight

Dr. Knight is a renowned hand, wrist and upper extremity surgeon with over 25 years of experience. Dr. Knight is a Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon and Fellowship trained. Dr Knight has appeared on CNN, The Doctors TV, Good Morning America, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Forbes, The Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, Oxygen network and more.