LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - It is a fun tradition to buy a big pumpkin for Halloween and carve it into a crazy character to sit on your front porch. But a Lubbock doctor says you’d be surprised how often that family fun can turn into a trip to the emergency room.
Dr. Desirae McKee is an Orthopedic Surgeon at the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center who specializes in hand surgery.
She says, "There's about 4,000 Halloween injuries every year and 20 percent of those are hand and finger injuries.”
Those are national statistics but she says there are pumpkin carving accidents in Lubbock every year. She says she has even seen people come to the emergency room after trying to carve a pumpkin with a chainsaw.
But she adds this is much more common, “One of the biggest things that happens is somebody takes a kitchen knife, tries to carve a pumpkin, the knife gets stuck and slips into a finger, cuts the tendon and you can’t bend your finger anymore." Dr. McKee says it’s better to buy an inexpensive pumpkin carving kit with a little orange serrated knife, available at most stores. But she warns, “They’re still sharp and you should still supervise children.”
Other important tips, she says make sure the room is well lit. Carve in an area where you won’t slip. And don’t drink and carve.
If you cut yourself, she says apply pressure and wash it with soap and water. But she warns that too many people skip going to the doctor when the pumpkin carving cut is worse than it appears. She says, “This is a very commonly missed injury. Sometimes, you think everything’s fine and then a month later, you can’t bend all the parts of your finger. We have about 10 to 14 days to fix your tendon if you cut it. After that, it turns into a much longer reconstruction.”
Even the tiniest cut, she says, can trigger a tendon injury or numbness that signals possible nerve injury. That would also need to be fixed within a limited window of time.