Ortho Corner: Hints for halting hand hazards on Halloween

Ortho Corner
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Harvest time is all about celebrating the pumpkin. This otherwise unassuming, plump, pale, and twisted vine growing gourd is fashioned but once a year into a cultural phenomenon that we embrace as pie on our forks, ale in our cups, and warm spiced lattes on our soccer fields.

Dr. Richard Tosti Provided

However, all these autumn delicacies are mere build up to the main event: home adornment for “All Hallows Eve.” As a father, I relish the festiveness that is born from the pumpkin patch, but as a hand surgeon, I expect to be in consultation for the mishaps that occur while carving them. The following is a high yield summary of ways to reduce your chances of becoming a bloody internet meme on Halloween – taken from the tales of a hand surgeon himself.

Halloween hacking should actually begin in the daylight

A well illuminated area to carve your pumpkin art will allow you to gauge the depth of your carving tool. Most commonly I see puncture wounds to the non-dominant hand as a result of the knife slipping through the rind and into the interior of the pumpkin where the other hand is stabilizing it.

  • Hand Surgeon Hack: Leave the top of the pumpkin intact; this will reduce the temptation to slide the opposite hand inside.

Avoid plunging the knife like Michael Myers

With a downward thrust, the momentum of the blade stops at the pumpkin, but the hand may continue to slide over the handle and onto the blade. In the same vein, one should also be mindful to keep the tools dry to prevent slippage.

  • Hand Surgeon Hack: Use a dull tipped serrated knife with a sawing motion to carve large pieces; this will add control to your movements.

Escape the ordinary

Most of us know that children should not have access to sharps – even on Halloween. Unfortunately, the most common age I see in consultation this time of year is the young teen who is fresh with freedom. For young adults wanting to graduate into this art, a carving kit is a safe alternative. These packs contain punches, shaving tools, scoopers, and sculpting loops, which any dexterous hand could employ for detailing.

  • Hand Surgeon Hack: decorating with paint and stickers is a safe way to get the little ones into the spooky spirit.

What to do if someone gets cut? If you find yourself at the receiving end of the blade do not panic. Wash the wound with soap and water and then hold firm pressure (ideally one finger / one spot) on the bleeding area for 10 minutes without peeking. Then cover the wound with a clean gauze or cloth and seek medical attention. If the slice is deep enough it may lacerate a nerve or a tendon, in which case the person will lose feeling or motion in the finger respectively. Tendon and nerve injuries have a limited window in which a direct repair is possible, and delays in treatment may negatively affect the outcome.

Dr. Richard Tosti is a fellowship trained, board certified Orthopaedic Surgeon who specializes in all conditions of the hand, wrist and elbow. For information on Rothman Orthopaedic Institute, visit RothmanOrtho.com.

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