The Carving Knife: Halloween’s Spookiest Creature

The Carving Knife: Halloween’s Spookiest Creature

Pumpkin carving is a fun Halloween family activity, but it can also land you in the emergency room.

Written by Suzanna Cisneros

Halloween is among the top three holidays for emergency room visits.

Halloween is among the top three holidays for emergency room visits.

Pumpkin carving brings out the child in all of us. Memories of traditions like trick-or-treating, costumes and haunted houses all come to mind as the art of carving begins. But as innocent as it appears, your jack-o-lantern can land you in the emergency room.

Halloween is among the top three holidays producing the most emergency room visits with accidental lacerations and puncture wounds to the hands and fingers. John Griswold, M.D., said many of these injuries require surgery and rehabilitation.

“There is a wrong way to carve a pumpkin,” Griswold said. “Pumpkins can be slippery and tough. In a second, a knife can slip and go through the skin and out the other side. People need to be aware of the damage that can be done if you do not take precautions.”

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons gives these tips to keep you and your family safe:

  • When carving pumpkins remember to use specifically designed carving knives, rather than kitchen knives, as they are less likely to get stuck in the thick pumpkin skin. Carve the pumpkin in small, controlled strokes, away from yourself on a strong, sturdy surface.
  • Carving knives should be kept in a clean, dry, well-lit area. Any moisture on the tools, hands or table can cause the knife to slip, leading to injuries.
  • Children should never carve pumpkins. Try painting pumpkins for a fun, creative option.
  • Think of fire hazards when lighting jack-o-lantern candles. Use glow sticks or artificial lights instead.

Griswold said if you cut a finger or hand, make sure the hand is elevated higher than your heart and apply direct pressure with a clean cloth to the wound to stop the bleeding.

“If continuous pressure does not slow or stop the bleeding after 15 minutes, an emergency room visit may be necessary,” Griswold said. “You can make fun Halloween memories with your family, but be be smart before you pick up the carving tools.”


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Featured Expert
John Griswold

John Griswold, M.D., is a professor and chairman of the Department of Surgery and holds clinic at Texas Tech Physicians.

View his profile in our Experts Guide.

Department of Surgery

The Department of Surgery is a component of the academic and clinical community at the School of Medicine.

The department provides expertise in general surgery, trauma and critical care, laproscopic and endoscopic surgery, pediatric surgery, as well as thoracic and surgical oncology.