Nothing says Halloween quite like a jack-o-lantern. Each October many families enjoy the tradition of carving pumpkins.

Sometimes, though, the fun of this family activity, can make people forget about the danger of using sharp knives. The truth is there are some inherent risks with carving a pumpkin.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, lacerations to the hand accounted for the most Halloween-related emergency room visits. Nearly 18 percent of injuries related to Halloween are on fingers and hands; 33 percent of those injuries were lacerations and 20 percent were fractures.

Children are often the ones who sustain an injury because they don’t measure the risk. Their concentration is on the task at hand and they don’t realize some of the danger.

It’s important for parents to be aware of the dangers and take steps to minimize the risk of injury.

Reduce the risk of injury

There are certain things that you can do to minimize the risk of injury.

  • Do not allow children under the age of 14 to have any type of sharp tool in their hand. It is always best for adults to do the carving. Always carve in the direction away from yourself.
  • Keep things dry. Anyone who has ever carved a pumpkin knows how wet and slippery things can get. The liquid in the pumpkin can make your hands and knives slip, and it only takes a second to lose control. Keep plenty of rags around to keep things dry.
  • Never put your hand inside the pumpkin when cutting. Keep the top of the pumpkin on so you can hold the pumpkin with your hand from above, and then use a sawing motion to cut into the pumpkin. If your hand is inside, a sharp knife can pierce right through and hit your finger or hand, causing a skin laceration or a more involved injury like cutting a tendon, nerve, or muscle, or a combination of them.
  • Be sure you have good lighting. You need to be able to see well to avoid injuries.

Opt for a carving kit

Pumpkin carving kits are available online and in stores, and they exist for a reason. They are especially helpful if children will be involved. Because of the consistency of the pumpkin it is a lot safer to use an instrument that is small and works like a small saw instead of a sharp kitchen knife. The pumpkin has a very tough exterior and then the interior is softer. Some kits contain stencils, which are even safer for children. They often include a scooping tool that is great for removing the interior pulp and seeds – and a safe job for the kids.

Of course, there are always alternatives to carving to keep it even safer. Try finger paints, watercolor paints, or magic markers and allow your child to get creative without the threat of sharp tools. It won’t make for any less fun on fright night!

We hope you have a happy Halloween, but if you do have an accident, our emergency services are always available to you. 


Manuel F. DaSilva, MD

Dr. Manuel DaSilva is an orthopedic surgeon with the Lifespan Orthopedics Institute. He specializes in the treatment of injuries and musculoskeletal conditions related to the hand, wrist, elbow, and shoulder. Specifically, he has expertise in caring for carpal tunnel syndrome, fractures of the hand, wrist and elbow, arthritis, and joint replacement.