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With Thanksgiving right around the corner, it's time to talk turkey—literally. Carving a dinner turkey is a time-honored tradition, but it can be a risky business if not done with care. This year, make sure your family’s celebration is not only delicious but also injury-free.

Here are five tips on how to safely carve your turkey and what to do in case of an unexpected mishap.

  1. Never cut toward yourself. Your free hand should be clear of the area you are carving toward. Don’t place your hand underneath the blade to catch the slice of meat. Use tongs, that creates a safe distance from the blade.
  2. Keep your knife handles and cutting area dry to avoid slips. Make sure your hands are dry, too. Wet surfaces create slippery conditions and may lead to accidents. Good lighting around the cutting area is also important.
  3. Keep all cutting utensils sharp. Having a sharp knife will avoid the need to use a lot of force when cutting, which can be dangerous. Dull knives are more likely to cause slips and are still sharp enough to cause a serious injury.
  4. Use the right tools. Use kitchen shears to tackle the job of cutting bones. Don’t use your knife as a saw! Use tongs to distribute sliced meat, never use the tip of the knife to pick up and distribute anything that has been sliced.
  5. If there is an accident, act quickly. If you cut your finger or hand, bleeding from minor cuts will often stop by applying direct pressure to the wound with a clean cloth, but you should know when to seek medical help.

Visit the emergency room if you’ve cut yourself and:

  • Continuous pressure does not stop the bleeding after 15 minutes.
  • You are unsure of your tetanus immunization status.
  • You are unable to thoroughly clean the cut by rinsing with mild soap and plenty of clean water.

“Unfortunately, these injuries are common because there is not a lot of tissue in the hand and wrist between the deep structures and the skin,” says Dr. Joseph Rosenbaum, a hand surgeon with Pfisterer Orthopaedics and Holy Name Medical Center.

If you’ve cut yourself and notice persistent numbness or tingling in the fingertip or still have difficulty moving or bending your fingers after a couple of days, you should visit a hand surgeon specializing in this type of injury.

“Infections are common, and sometimes even minor-appearing lacerations can cause injuries to deeper structures like tendons or nerves,” Dr. Rosenbaum adds. “Thankfully, these structures are usually repairable, but have better outcomes when addressed in a timely manner, so it is important not to delay.”

In case of a serious injury, immediately call 911 or visit the Holy Name Emergency Department. If you are concerned about the persistent effects of a hand injury, call 201-836-1663 or click here to schedule a consultation with a Holy Name specialist.