By JENNIFER HELMER, CHT, and Co-Owner of NRPT
October is National Physical Therapy Month. Ironically, increased hand injuries occur this month in both children and adults. These injuries coincide with Halloween, a time when pumpkins are carved and candles are lit. Below are some helpful hints for a safe holiday, according to the American Society of Hand Therapists and the American Society for Surgery of the Hand:
• USE PUMPKIN CARVING KNIVES/KITS. Kitchen and serrated knives produce more injuries and are more severe. Pumpkin carving tools are safer.
• DO NOT LEAVE CHILDREN UNATTENDED.
• DO NOT ALLOW CHILDREN TO CARVE. Leave the carving to the adults. Let children participate by cleaning out the seeds, and drawing the outline for the image on the pumpkin.
• SHARPER IS NOT BETTER. If a sharpened knife becomes wedged in the thickened shell of the pumpkin, more force may be required to remove it. A hand injury can occur when the knife dislodges.
• BE AWARE OF HAND POSITION. Often injuries occur when the knife pushes through the pumpkin, where your other hand is steadying the gourd.
• CARVE AWAY FROM YOURSELF. Use small controlled strokes.
• BE PATIENT. Carve in a controlled, unhurried manner.
• DO NOT GET BURNED. Consider cutting the bottom out of the pumpkin, rather than the top. Then, lower the pumpkin over the lit candle. This technique will eliminate potential of burn when reaching your hand in from the top with a lighter or match. Also, glow sticks and flashlights can serve as alternatives to flame.
The staff at Northern Rockies Physical Therapy wishes you a fun and safe Halloween!
 American Society of Hand Therapists. Pumpkin Carving Injury Prevention Tips. Retrieved 7/25/12 from http://www.asht.org/sites/default/files/downloads/2012/pumpkin-carving-injury-prevention-tips.pdf
 American Society for Surgery of the Hand. (2009) Hand Surgeons Warn of Pumpkin Carving Dangers. Retrieved 7/25/12 from http://www.assh.org/Public/Safety/Pages/PumpkinCarvingSafety.aspx
 Marcus, A.M. et al. (2004, June). The safety of pumpkin carving tools. Prev Med 38(6), 799-803.
Jennifer Helmer is a licensed Physical Therapist/Certified Hand Therapist and co-owner of Northern Rockies Physical Therapy. Jennifer is a native Montanan and in her free time, she enjoys photography, golf and downhill skiing.