If there’s one activity that helps define Halloween, it’s pumpkin carving. As we get closer to October 31, many families will take part in this fun activity, but pumpkin carvers beware – a simple slip of a cutting utensil can leave you with a pretty serious injury.

“We see a lot of injuries to the palm of the hand. People cut nerves or arteries in their hands and fingers. They can also lacerate their flexor tendons, which help us bend our fingers,” said Hudson Seidel, MD, orthopedic hand surgeon with Comprehensive Orthopaedics.

So how can you avoid being one of 2,000 people every year who suffer from pumpkin-carving injuries?

How can I stay safe?

Dr. Seidel says one of the biggest mistakes people make is using kitchen knives, which are often large and extremely sharp.

“That’s not really a good idea. We want to use an actual pumpkin carving kit. These are designed to specifically cut pumpkins, and are less likely to plunge into your hand,” Seidel says.

When carving, Seidel recommends cutting in a downward motion, to minimize the risk of injury if a carving tool slips.

“We also see kids with these kind of injuries, so if you’re kids are going to be carving, make sure they are closely supervised and using the appropriate tools,” said Seidel

What should I do after an injury?

“You want to stop any bleed by applying direct, firm pressure to the area. As a good rule of thumb, if the bleeding doesn’t stop within 10 to 15 minutes, you’ll need to go to the emergency room,” Seidel says.

For someone who loses range of motion or experiences numbness or tingling as a result of the injury, Seidel warns that surgery may be necessary to repair the damage.