Healthier Me: Pumpkin carving safety

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With Halloween rapidly approaching, people are carving pumpkins to make their home look festive.
Sanford hospital says every year around the holiday they see a lot of hand injuries from pumpkin carving.

Skulls, ghosts and faces are just some things you can carve on a pumpkin; but if you aren't careful and don't pick the right tools, you can injure yourself.

"At Sanford we probably see a dozen people with severe lacerations, tendon injuries and nerve injuries," says Sanford
Hand Surgeon Dr. Jon Norberg.

The first step you need to take is picking out the right pumpkin.

"For picking a pumpkin to carve on, you want something that has a big enough face that you can have some working surface and the walls aren't too thick," says Dr. Norberg.

You also have to make sure you are using the right instruments to create your design.

"Using A butcher knife, paring knife or a steak knife is not a good choice because when you go through the pumpkin, the pumpkins are so hard that you don't have much control and are likely to stab yourself," says Dr. Norberg.

There are pumpkin carving kits you can buy that are blunted at the tip and are safe to use. Dr. Norberg says don't use any power tools and don't drink while carving.

Once you pick your pumpkin and the right tools, you are ready to carve.

"Start with taking the top off the pumpkin and if you are using your little saw, you can see that they are actually pretty quick. You are not going to be any faster with a knife or a power tool," says Dr. Norberg.

Once you have cut the top of the pumpkin off, you need to scrape the inside of the pumpkin out. If the walls of the pumpkin are too thick, use a scraper to thin them out.
The most important safety tip is that you make sure you watch where you put your hands!

"When you are doing your carving, don't ever put your hand inside the pumpkin while using the tool. Even though they are blunted at the tip, it still doesn't feel well if you stab through. Get your hand on the outside," says Dr. Norberg.

Dr. Norberg also recommends that you have a towel handy, that way you can keep you hands dry and have good control on your pumpkin.