The children’s costumes are ready, the bedsheet ghosts are swinging from the trees, there are orange string lights hanging everywhere and now it’s finally time to carve the pumpkin. It’s a timeless Halloween tradition and you may be doing it all wrong.

Every October, hospitals treat four to five times more hand injuries than usual as a result of jack o’ lantern carving.

“I do see patients that come in with a hand-related injury,” Dr. Stuart Elkowitz, an orthopedic surgeon, told CTV Vancouver on Thursday. “Lacerations of digital nerves as well as flexor tendons.”

So before you make your first puncture, read the following tips that may help you prevent any carving injuries this Halloween.

1. Don’t use a kitchen knife


As tempting as it is to reach for a kitchen knife to carve a pumpkin, experts say you shouldn’t. A regular knife is sharp and more likely to slip around during carving, Catherine Roberts, Consumer Reports' health editor, warned. Instead, she advises purchasing specialized tools designed for pumpkin carving that are typically found in kits.

“They’re much smaller, they’re much less sharp and they’re going to be much easier to handle as you’re carving the tough pumpkin skin,” she said.

If a kitchen knife is the only option available, it’s best to choose one that has a shorter handle, experts suggest.

2. Don’t scoop out the innards first


Even though everyone seems to do it, doctors advise against cutting out the top “lid” of the pumpkin and cleaning out its mushy insides before carving. The reason? Carvers are much more likely to place the hand that’s not holding the knife inside the pumpkin while they’re piercing the skin.

“You’re setting your opposite hand up for sustaining a penetrating injury,” Dr. Elkowitz said.

Wait until the carved masterpiece is complete before scooping out the pulp.

3. Don’t cut out the top lid


As opposed to carving the top portion of the pumpkin to create a removable lid, experts suggest cutting out the bottom instead. It’s much easier to place the pumpkin with a hole in the base over top of a lit candle than putting the candle inside the pumpkin from the top where there’s a greater risk of receiving a burn.

4. Don’t let kids carve


This may sound like an obvious one, but safety experts recommend that adults do all of the pumpkin carving. Children can take part in the fun by drawing on the face or design and cleaning out the sloppy pulp once all of the knife work is complete.

Happy carving!