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Bandages are for Mummies!

We don’t want to deal with real blood on Halloween, right? So let’s take a minute and review these pumpkin-carving safety tips…it just may save a trip to the ER for some stitches in grown-up, as well as little fingers!

When my son, Matt, was younger, I recall my husband and I wondering just how much pumpkin carving could Matt safely do. A kid’s manual dexterity gets better with each passing Halloween — but that doesn’t always seem to correlate with an equal increase in common sense, as any ER doc will tell you.

What are the best ways to include younger kids in the pumpkin-carving festivities while keeping everyone safe? I checked with the folks who know a lot about these matters: The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Society for Surgery of the Hand, the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at State University of New York, and the American Society of Hand Therapists. These folks have seen it all, and they have some great tips to help keep your little ones safe around the pumpkin-carving table (they might just keep Mom and Dad from needing a stitch or two, as well).

° Carve your pumpkin in a clean, dry, well-lit area.
Wash and thoroughly dry all the tools you will use: Carving tools, knife, cutting surface, and your hands. Any moisture on your tools, hands, or table can cause slipping that can lead to injuries.

° Very young children should never carve pumpkins — but they can still help.

Leave the sharp stuff to older kids or parents. Little ones can draw on pumpkins with markers. Some families carve a big pumpkin and have younger kids create their own designs on mini pumpkins. Kids can also help clean out the “goop and seeds” from inside the pumpkin. Messy fun!

° Always have adult supervision during carving – even with teens.
Doctors often report seeing adolescent patients with injuries from pumpkin carving. Adults may feel that the kids are responsible enough to be left on their own, but accidents do happen and teen judgment isn’t always the best— no surprise there! Remember, it only takes a second of distraction for an injury to occur.

° Teach knife safety to older kids
Always point knives away from you. Keep your free hand away from the direction of the knife. Use slicing motions, and never force the knife.

° Consider buying pumpkin tools instead of using a knife.
Special pumpkin-carving kits are available in stores and include small, serrated pumpkin saws that work better because they are less likely to get stuck in the thick pumpkin tissue. According to a study by the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at State University of New York, people who used pumpkin-carving tools specifically designed for this purpose had fewer and less-severe injuries than people who carved pumpkins using standard kitchen knives.

° Light your pumpkin safely.
Small, votive candles rather than tall, skinny candles, are safest for candle-lit pumpkins. Candle-lit pumpkins should be placed on a sturdy table, away from curtains and other flammable objects, and should never be left unattended. Even better, use battery-operated candles or light pucks.

° Know when to seek emergency help for a cut.
Bleeding from a minor cut will often stop on its own when direct pressure is applied to the wound with a clean cloth. If continuous pressure does not slow or stop the bleeding after 15 minutes, an urgent care or emergency room visit should be considered.