Safety Hacks for Pumpkin Carving

Shandra Martinez

| 3 min read

It’s almost time for legions of kids dressed up like little ghosts, cartoon characters, pirates and zombies to descend on porches with a hopeful “Trick or Treat.” Halloween is a season for costumes, candy and lots of pumpkins. Whether people pick them out at their local store or head to a nearby farm, pumpkins used for decorating and carving are the most well-known symbols of this autumn holiday. But cutting into these pumpkins can also be dangerous. Let’s look at some safety hacks for pumpkin carving.
Each year, nearly 150 million people in the United States say they plan to carve a pumpkin for Halloween. Some go traditional, cutting out triangle eyes and a jagged smile for their pumpkin face. Others get more creative, crafting designs, pictures and turning their squash into a work of art. However they are sliced and sawed, pumpkin carving carries a risk.

Pumpkin carving injuries

According to a tally of hospital records, there were more than 20,500 knife injuries related to pumpkin carving from 2012 to 2021 in the United States. Here’s a breakdown of that injury data:
  • 87.6% of all injuries were hand injuries
  • Patients ages 10 to 19 had the highest rate of injury at 31.5%
  • Children younger than 10 years old had the second-highest rate of injury at 19.5%
  • Peak day of injury: Oct. 30, or Halloween Eve

Put safety first

Each family needs to make their own safety rules, but some pediatricians encourage parents to set a no-knife precaution for any child under 14 when it comes to pumpkin carving. Some safety tips to consider:
  • Create a no-carve zone. Set up paints and markers and encourage kids to decorate colorful pumpkins with art supplies. Glue on big, googly eyes, use stickers, and arrange wigs or hats on top of the pumpkins.
  • Tracing. Let children trace the outline of the carving design on the pumpkin, using a pen, marker or pencil. Once their design is set, an adult can carve it.
  • Little scoopers. If kids want to get their hands on the pumpkin, let them scoop out the seeds and strings inside the pumpkin. They can use a big spoon to scrape up and down the sides until the interior is smooth. Let them use their fingers to sort the seeds onto a cookie sheet so they can be roasted for a Halloween snack.
  • Thin the shell. If you want to make carving safer, consider thinning the inside shell of a thick-walled pumpkin. Pushing knives into thick pumpkins is hard and can lead to injuries. Scraping and thinning the shell until it’s less than an inch thick will make carving easier. For best results, use a big spoon with a serrated edge.
  • Use a carving kit. Each Halloween, you can find pumpkin carving kits in stores or online. These smaller hand-held tools are fairly easy to use. Their blades are not as sharp as regular knives, so this may decrease the risk of injury. If these are used by children or teens, there should still be adult supervision.
  • Keep the top on. Most people start carving their pumpkin by cutting the stem-top off the jack-o-lantern to make a removable cap. If you do this, make sure to put the top back on the pumpkin before you carve it. Leaving the top open and putting one hand inside while you carve can lead to hand injuries.
Photo credit: BCBSM

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