COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – Almost nothing says Halloween more than the classic jack-o’-lantern seen each fall, festively displayed in yards, perched in windows, or even acting as a centerpiece for the dining room table.
The tradition of carving pumpkins came to the United States with Irish immigrants and can be dated back to the 19th Century.
While a fun activity, pumpkin carving can also be dangerous if not done correctly.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 40% of Halloween injuries seen in 2019 were related to pumpkin carving.
The American Society for Surgery of the Hand recommends using caution while taking steps to prevent hand injuries when carving pumpkins.
When carving your pumpkin, work in a well-lit area that is clean and dry. Also, be sure the pumpkin is clean and dry to ensure you have the easiest surface to work with.
Buy a pumpkin carving kit. It will have specialized tools to make carving safe and easy.
Parents or adults should supervise all pumpkin carving activities.
“All too often, we see adolescent patients with injuries because adults feel the kids are responsible enough to be left on their own,” says ASSH member Dr. Jeffrey Wint. “Even though the carving may be going great, it only takes a second for an injury to occur.”
Anything involving a sharp object, like a knife, should only be done by adults. Let kids clean out the pulp and seeds from the pumpkins or draw designs for the gourds.
If an injury does occur during carving, minor cuts can be treated by using a clean, dry cloth to apply pressure to the wound. If bleeding has not stopped after 15 minutes, you may need to seek help from a doctor or visit the emergency room.
To make pumpkins last longer, experts recommend cutting them open from the bottom or back, rather than top where the stem is. Removing or disconnecting the stem speeds up decay.
After all the pulp and seeds have been removed, thoroughly clean your pumpkin with a mix of bleach and water. Use one tablespoon of bleach per quart of water. This will help prevent it from molding.
Let the pumpkin dry completely before attempting to carve.
Use a substance like petroleum jelly, cooking oil, or WD-40 in areas that have been carved to lock in moisture and preserve the pumpkin for longer.
If the pumpkin starts to wilt, it can be soaked in water to perk it back up again.
Once you have your pumpkin carved, its time to light it up.
Fires are also a concern when it comes to jack-o’-lanterns. The National Fire Protection Association recommends using a battery-operated candle or glow stick in jack-o-lanterns rather than a candle.
Another fun and creative idea is to paint pumpkins instead of carving them.
Remember to save the pumpkin insides. Seeds can be roasted for a tasty treat, while the pulp can be used for pumpkin pie, soup, or other dishes.