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Don't let your Turkey Day celebrations go fowl because of a hand injury

November 23, 2015
Thanksgiving Dinner

It’s the holiday season, and to Emergency Department physicians at Baystate Medical Center, as well as others around the country, that means one thing – an increase in holiday injuries.

Cuts from carving are one of the top five most common injuries on Thanksgiving.

“Injuries to the tendons and nerves of the fingers happen frequently when a sharp knife blade slips and cuts into the hand. Surgery is often necessary to repair the damage, and rehabilitation can take months to get back normal hand use,” said Dr. Pranay Parikh of Baystate Hand and Wrist Surgery.

Tips for safely cutting the turkey

Dr. Parikh and the American Society for Surgery of the Hand offer the following safety tips before slicing up that turkey, which 88% of Americans choose to eat on Thanksgiving:

  • Never cut towards yourself. One slip of the knife can cause a horrific injury. While carving a turkey, your free hand should be placed opposite the side you are carving towards. Don’t place your hand underneath the blade to catch the slice of meat.
  • Keep your cutting area well-lit and dry. Good lighting will help prevent an accidental cut of the finger and making sure your cutting surface is dry will prevent ingredients from slipping while chopping.
  • Keep your knife handles dry. A wet handle can prove slippery and cause your hand to slip down onto the blade resulting in a nasty cut.
  • Keep all cutting utensils sharp. A sharp knife will never need to be forced to cut, chop, carve or slice. A knife too dull to cut properly is still sharp enough to cause an injury.
  • Use an electric knife to ease the carving of the turkey or ham.
  • Use kitchen shears to tackle the job of cutting bones and joints.
  • Leave carving to the adults. Children have not yet developed the dexterity skills necessary to safely handle sharp utensils. If you do sustain an injury while carving, applying direct pressure to the wound with a clean cloth should stop bleeding from minor cuts.

Other tips to keep you out of the hospital

Dr. Parikh – who also warns against cuts from broken dishes and glasses, as well as from knives when washing in the sink after dinner – noted a visit to the Emergency Room is in order if:

  • Continuous pressure does not stop the bleeding after 15 minutes.
  • You notice persistent numbness or tingling in the fingertip.
  • You are unsure of your tetanus immunization status.
  • You are unable to thoroughly clean the wound by rinsing with a mild soap and plenty of clean water.

Other ‘injuries” on Thanksgiving, some of which might involve a visit to the Emergency Department, include burns, heartburn, food poisoning, and strains and fractures from that fun game of tackle football after dinner.