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Hand injuries are on the rise

What’s green, bumpy, growing in popularity, and capable of sending you rushing to the emergency room?

Unfortunately for foodies, it’s the avocado, the delicious fruit that is perfect for mashing up on your toast or for making fresh guacamole. The problem is that you have to cut the fruit to enjoy it, and some people are having a hard time slicing avocados without also slicing their hands.
If you aren’t careful, you could end up with what’s being called “avocado hand.”

“Some people unfamiliar with how to properly cut avocados, as well as other fruits and vegetables, may end up with serious nerve and tendon injuries that limit the use of a hand or fingers and could require surgery to repair,” said C. Liam Dwyer, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon at Geisinger.

At their ripest, avocados have a tough skin but are soft inside, which means the knife you’re using may slip when you hit the soft flesh of the fruit. You can also easily get the knife stuck in an avocado’s center pit and accidentally cut your hand trying to pull the knife back out.

“We’re seeing a growing number of serious wounds that demand medical attention associated with cutting avocados, in addition to minor cuts and stabs that we hear about anecdotally,” said Dr. Dwyer.

Before you take a sharp knife to this creamy fruit, make sure you’re cutting it the right way:

  1. Place the avocado length-wise on a cutting board.
  2. Slice the center lengthwise with one hand while rotating it with the other hand.
  3. Twist the avocado to split the halves.
  4. Gently remove the pit with a spoon.

Avocados aren’t the only fruits that can be difficult—and dangerous—to cut. Watermelon, pumpkin, honeydew, cantaloupe and pineapple—all fruits with a tough outer skin—make it hard to cut in half. Fruits filled with pits or seeds like peaches, nectarines and plums can also be tough to cut.

While you’re in the kitchen preparing vegetables for the grill or making fruit salad, keep these knife safety tips in mind:

  • The sharper the better. While you might think a sharp knife is more dangerous, the opposite is actually true. Dull knives require more pressure to use.
  • Keep kids away from knives. Your children may want to help you prepare and cook food, but slicing and dicing fruits and vegetables is a job for adults only.
  • Use a cutting board. Resist the urge to hold foods in your hands as you cut. Always place them on a cutting board first.
  • Cut away from your body. It might feel more natural to cut toward you, but this can be dangerous.
  • Curl your fingers. While you slice, pay attention to the hand that is holding the fruit or vegetable; curl your fingers so you don’t accidentally cut the tips.

If you do accidentally cut your hand with a knife, apply pressure with a cloth, tissue or piece of gauze until bleeding stops. 

“If the injury requires medical attention, call 911 or have someone drive you to the emergency room,” said Dr. Dwyer.

Dr. C. Liam Dwyer sees patients at Geisinger Sports Medicine & Orthopaedics, with locations in Danville and Lewisburg. To schedule an appointment, please call 800-275-6401.

wellness avocado hand cutting safely
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