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Turkeys, crafts and avocados: common hand injuries and how to avoid them


by Christina Ward, MD

What do turkeys, crafts and avocados have in common? Lots of people love to carve, create, cut or eat them – especially during this fall season.

As a hand surgeon working at TRIA Orthopedics, I see many hand and arm injuries from these common activities. There are some easy steps you can take to prevent these injuries from happening. As you prepare to celebrate the season’s festivities, take a moment to learn about the most common injuries, what to do about them and most importantly, how to prevent them.

Turkey Carving

With fall comes seasonal baking and cooking. Around this time of year, I often see patients with hand and arm injuries from food preparation – including turkey carving. Keep the following tips in mind when preparing your turkey or other food items this season.

Take your time. Lots of food prep involves sharp knives, which can easily slip if not handled carefully. It’s easy to rush when handling lots of food prep, but hurrying will only increase the risk of injury. Make sure you take your time as you slice the turkey or cut up other foods.

Cut away from yourself. This idea is the same for pumpkins, turkeys are any other item you are cutting with a knife – always move the knife blade away from your body to avoid cutting yourself. Make sure to put the item you’re cutting on a stable surface, then keep your holding hand away from the knife. If possible, stabilize the item with a fork or other tool instead of your fingers.

Keep tools out of reach of little hands. Around the holidays, a kitchen can become a busy place with lots of people and lots of food prep items. Make sure you keep knives and other sharp or dangerous items out of reach.

Holiday Crafting

This time of year, I also see an increase in injuries from crafts. This is understandable, since many people are inspired to create their own seasonal decorations or homemade gifts for the holidays.

Before you pick up your scissors, knives, hot glue guns and push pins, keep in mind these simple tips to protect your hands and arms this season.

Use a sharp knife. It may seem counterintuitive to use a sharp knife to help prevent injury. However, I see more injuries resulting from dull knives than sharp knives. If your Xacto knife, scissors or other knife blade is too dull, you will have to push too hard to make a cut. The force of pushing too hard could cause your knife to slip more easily.

Cut away from yourself. This is true regardless of your activity. Anytime you are using a cutting tool, place the object on a flat surface, make sure your other hand or arm is not behind or underneath the object and apply the pressure away from your body to avoid injury.

Use the correct tools. It can be tempting to use makeshift or incorrect tools when you don’t have the proper equipment for your project. However, this can cause more risk of injury due to improper tools. Read your craft directions carefully (if you have them) and don’t reach for the kitchen knife when a pair of safety scissors will do the trick more effectively and safely.

Avocados

While avocados may not be a seasonal food, it’s always a good idea to be aware of common avocado-related injuries and tactics to avoid them. I often see patients with avocado hand, an injury that occurs when the knife you’re using to cut an avocado slips through and cuts your hand or fingers.

Before you slice another avocado, make sure you know these helpful tips to avoid a trip to the emergency room or urgent care clinic.

It’s all about how you hold the avocado. You can avoid most avocado-related injuries by adjusting the way you hold the fruit. Most injuries happen by holding the avocado in one hand while slicing straight into the fruit with the other hand. Instead, place the avocado on a flat surface, hold it steady with one hand and cut away from yourself with the other hand.

Use a spoon. Scraping the avocado out with a knife can also result in injury. Instead of using a knife, it can be just as effective (and much safer) to score the avocado with a knife and then use a big spoon to scoop it out.

Don’t use a dull knife. Some people think using a dull knife, such as a butter knife, is safer. This can actually cause injury because a dull knife requires you to push harder, making the knife more likely to slip. Instead of using a dull knife, focus on using proper technique when cutting into any food item such as an avocado. Cut carefully, slowly and smoothly and make sure you avoid stabbing or slicing too quickly.

What happens if I injure my hand or arm?

If you do experience an injury when cutting a turkey, holiday craft, avocado or other item this fall, don’t panic. Many of these injuries can be treated easily or with a few stitches. Here are some tips if you’re unsure how to care for your injury:

  • Bleeding from minor cuts will often stop on its own by applying direct pressure. If continuous pressure does not slow or stop the bleeding after 15 minutes, an emergency room visit may be required.
  • Come in to an emergency room or urgent care if you either cannot fully move your finger after a cut, or have numbness in your finger after a cut. Because of the small size of the tendons and nerves in the hand, a cut of just 1 cm can cut through a tendon or nerve- which is a problem that requires surgery to fix. 
  • If it’s not bleeding too much, you can still go to urgent care or orthopedic urgent care to have it looked at. Any finger or hand lacerations (cuts) can be treated at TRIA’s Orthopedic Urgent Care.
  • If surgery is needed, our hand surgeons will perform the surgery. You can see a hand therapist right here at our clinic following your surgery. Depending on the injury, your hand therapist will help you with exercises or any necessary splints.

With these tips in mind, you are ready to enjoy a fun and safe holiday season. And if you or someone you love does experience an injury, you’ll find the treatment you need at TRIA’s Orthopedic Urgent Care.

About Christina Ward, MD
I treat hand and wrist problems from common (carpal tunnel syndrome) to complex (wrist fractures and dislocations), but have a special interest in hand and wrist trauma including distal radius fractures, intercarpal injuries and distal radial-ulnar joint problems. I like the intricate anatomy of the hand and enjoy treating a variety of conditions. I work with our wonderful team of nurses, physician assistants, surgeons and hand therapists to improve hand care for all patients. Hand surgery research is an important part of my practice; I have published research in scientific journals, presented at conferences, and also serve as director of HealthPartners Hand Surgery Fellowship that provides an additional year of specialized hand surgery training for two surgeons every year.

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