HEALTH

Jack-o’-Lanterns 1, Fingers 9

HEALTH
Oct 30, 2014 at 11:50 AM ET

Halloween has always come with cautionary advice: Don’t walk down quiet streets, be wary of strangers, and of course, avoid unwrapped candy in case some psychopath has decided to poison it or slip a razor blade between the layers of nougat and caramel.

But as it turns out, people have been worrying about the wrong Halloween dangers all along. Abductions of mini superheroes and princesses are actually quite rare, and the contaminated candy scenario is just an urban legend (not a single case has ever been reported in the U.S.). What we should be concerned about is using a butcher knife to poke holes in a slippery orange gourd.

According to Consumer Product Safety Commission, 4,400 people went to the emergency room last year because of “Halloween-related activities”—more than half of which were pumpkin-carving incidents.

“These children’s parents probably help cut their meat at dinner time, yet they readily hand them a sharp and slippery kitchen knife and have them try to cut a precise shape on to a round fruit that is awkward to hold,” writes Dr. Ryan Grabow, a Las Vegas hand specialist.

Some of the lacerations are less severe, Grabow claims, but many result in damage to nerves and tendons—the kinds of injuries that require complex surgery and months of physical therapy for the hand or appendage to heal. “Unfortunately, many of these patients never have 100 percent return of finger or hand function due to the severity of their injuries,” Grabow adds.

The primary cause, he notes, is the use of improper pumpkin carving utensils. Most of the wounds Grabow sees are caused by kitchen knives, and the rest are the work of power tools (which is just about the most American thing we’ve ever heard).

If you want, you can view some those injuries here. (WARNING: These are graphic, but isn’t gore what Halloween is about?) And if you’re wondering how not to end up like the poor folks in those photos, check out the safety tips below from Farmer Mike, a pro-pumpkin carver.