Southlake experts remind community to practice safe knife-handling techniques this Halloween season and beyond
(Newmarket, Ontario – October 18, 2012) With Halloween season comes the excitement of tricks, treats, and opportunities to get crafty. Experts from Southlake Regional Health Centre's Hand Program are reminding the community to be careful when partaking in the epitome of all Halloween seasonal crafts – pumpkin carving – and offer three important safety tips on how to avoid the Emergency Department this Halloween.
Every year, healthcare practitioners nationwide witness severe cases of hand injuries from pumpkin carving and other knife related incidents. These injuries are often very serious, requiring a combination of both hand surgery and intense treatment with recovery times of up to four months – initially, without the ability to use, touch, or independently wash the affected hand.
Southlake Hand Surgeon Dr. Deborah vanVliet, and Occupational Therapist Lucy Winston both agree that pumpkin carving is serious business – especially if one is to avoid a hospital visit. They recommend the following important safety measures before starting the much-anticipated activity:
1. Carve in a dry and well-lit area
Pumpkin ‘guts' make the environment wet and slippery, which can in turn lead to knife slips. To avoid this, make sure your cutting surface, hands, and tools are all dry before you begin and while you're carving!
2. Always have adult supervision (although it's best if the carving is left to the adults)
Children should not be doing any pumpkin carving. Instead, why not let them draw the pattern on the pumpkin or hollow out the inside? If the carving responsibility is given to an adolescent, always make sure they are safely prepared and have proper adult supervision.
3. Use a pumpkin-carving kit
Using a carving kit is a good Halloween habit as it provides tools that are best suited for the job. Pumpkin-carving kits come equipped with small serrated knives that are less likely to get caught in thick pumpkin skin that requires forceful dislodge. Also, pumpkin-carving knives are not as sharp as household knives and are less likely to cause a deep, penetrating cut.
Aurora resident and full-time working mother of two Kim Sillcox knows all too well the consequences of not following simple pumpkin-carving safety measures. After she cut through her index tendon with a knife in a rushed and slippery carving episode, Sillcox found herself in Southlake's Emergency Department and shortly after, undergoing hand surgery and a three-month stint of hand rehabilitation.
“I was rushing and we were carving more pumpkins than usual,” said Sillcox. “I used a knife I shouldn't have been using – it wasn't a pumpkin-carving knife. My hand slid down the blade and I cut right through the tendon of my index finger.”
According to Dr. vanVliet, it doesn't take much to incur a serious hand injury like Sillcox's – it can even happen with a slip of a butter knife.
“Flexor tendons are like elastic bands and are under a tremendous amount of tension from the muscles in the forearms,” said Dr. vanVliet. ”One small and simple cut can cause the tendons to retract like an elastic and the whole hand can lose its ability to move and bend.”
Southlake sees close to 30 cases of flexor tendon injuries throughout the year and there is a recognizable spike in numbers around certain seasons and holidays such as Thanksgiving and Halloween.
“We definitely see an increase in patients with hand injuries around the times when people are cutting turkeys and carving pumpkins,” said Winston. “Workplace injuries aside, these accidents almost always happen during housekeeping and homemaking activities.”
Dr. vanVliet and Winston have some advice for the community on the best way to avoid an injury this year: remember to focus on the activity and never multi-task while holding a knife or sharp object.