Americans consume more than eight pounds of avocado each year, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This represents a threefold increase since 2000 in the amount of the avocado plant’s massive berry consumed.
This uptick in consumption has led to an uptick in injuries associated with its preparation. Due to the common ways people hold avocados while cutting, hand injuries happen a lot during the process. These injuries have become so common they’ve earned a name unto themselves: avocado hand.
Even if it sounds like a punchline, an avocado hand injury can turn serious. More than 9,000 people end up in the emergency room each year seeking treatment for these injuries.
You don’t have to go into a situation like that without any idea what to do, though. Whether you’re looking for first aid advice for a loved one or want to be prepared for such a situation, read on as we walk you through the best practices in caring for an avocado hand injury.
Avocado Hand Basics
Avocado hand injuries come from the misuse of a knife while cutting the avocado or removing the pit. The massive seed in the center of the fruit requires a unique cutting approach. Not everyone learns the most effective methods before developing bad habits.
Most hand cuts that happen when carving up an avocado come from one of two events. The knife can slip, leading to cuts along the fingers, wrists, or hand. The knife can also stab too deep when pulling the pit out after cutting, digging into the flesh of the user’s palm.
Different knife injuries require distinct strategies. A long, shallow cut along the side of your hand will need a different treatment plan from a forceful stab straight into your palm.
First Aid: Knife Slip Cut
Treating a typical kitchen cut is a five-step process. Many kitchen cuts can be treated at home.
Look at how much the wound bleeds and how deep it is. If any part of a finger has been cut off or the bleeding looks severe, consider calling 911 or taking the injured person to the ER. If the blood gushes or squirts, control the bleeding and contact emergency services as soon as possible.
If the cut is shallow, start by washing it out. Soap and water will control infection risks better than anything else. If you wait to wash it until it stops bleeding, you might wash away the scab and start the whole process over.
Let It Bleed
Allow the cut to bleed a little. You don’t want to encourage blood loss, but a little bit of bleeding helps flush potential contaminants out. After a couple of minutes, wash the blood out under cool running water.
Control the Bleeding
Now you can get the bleeding under control and encourage a good scab to form. Cover it with gauze or a few bandages. Even paper towels can help if you don’t have any of those.
Getting the bleeding under control can prevent the cut from getting worse. Protecting the cut while it forms a scab will further reduce the risk of infection.
Let the affected person rest for a little while. If you can, elevate the affected finger or hand. Dizziness and weakness might indicate shock.
If you suspect shock, call 911 right away and make sure the injured person sits or lies down. While it might not be life-threatening, it’s better to avoid serious issues that can come from shock.
First Aid: Hand Stab Wounds
The more serious type of injury that can come from cutting an avocado happens when cutters stab their own hands through the flesh of the fruit. Prying the pit out of the avocado can sometimes take a decent amount of force. Sometimes, these stab wounds can run quite deep, leading to long-term hand injuries.
For shallow stabs, follow the same procedure as for cuts outlined above. We’ll walk you through identifying hand cuts and stabs that need more attention as well.
Identifying Deep Stab Wounds
If you are unsure if your avocado hand injury requires more attention, run through the following considerations:
Have you tried to stop the bleeding for several minutes with no success? If it keeps soaking through bandages and gauze, you need help.
Is the cut along a joint? Cuts to the joints can prove difficult to treat due to regular stresses on the skin.
Do you see any bone or muscle tissue in the cut? If the cut is skin-deep, you may be able to treat it on your own, but wounds that expose deeper tissues need attention fast.
Can you still feel your hand? A wound that doesn’t hurt or leaves a part of your hand unresponsive or numb requires a doctor’s care as soon as possible. You may have damaged nerves.
Is the wound large? If you can’t push the edges together with a little pressure from your fingers, it’s too wide to treat at home.
Treating Deep Stab Wounds
Basic first aid for a deep stab wound requires you to reduce bleeding and call 911. Make sure to follow all instructions from emergency services operators and first responders.
Even if a cut looks shallow and easy to handle, keep an eye on it. Kitchen cuts come with a high infection risk compared to a lot of other common household injuries.
When knives pass through food, they pick up any microorganisms contained in the food, like bacteria and fungi. Since they introduce those to the cut as soon as they enter, they often risk a more serious infection than other scrapes and tears.
Washing the wound with soap and water will help prevent infection, but monitor the cut and the rest of your body for signs. If the wound fills with pus, turns red, or hurts more than expected, it’s gotten infected.
Systemic infections can also start from cutting your hand. If the lymph nodes in your neck, armpits, or groin start swelling up, you may have a general infection from the cut.
Just like with a deep cut, an infection indicates the cut has progressed beyond your ability to treat it at home. Contact a healthcare professional as soon as possible.
What Comes Next With Avocado Hand?
Depending on the specific parts of your injury, you may be seen by hand specialists, surgeons, general practitioners, or nurses. The wound may require surgery, stitches, antibiotics, or any combination of those.
If you managed to deal severe damage to your fingers, injure a bone in your hand, or slice through a muscle, you’ll need surgery. The specifics of your hand surgery will depend on the wound.
Recovering from surgery can take weeks or months depending on the type of surgery you need. A severed tendon or removed finger can take six months or more to recover its full strength and range of movement, while a less severe wound might take less time.
Stitches hold a wound closed when it is too wide or deep to stay closed on its own. Most wounds held together with stitches heal within ten days, though some can take longer.
If your wound becomes infected, your healthcare professional will give you antibiotics to take care of the wound. Some serious infections can require surgical intervention as well.
Though an infection can appear to clear up earlier than expected, always take your antibiotics as directed by your doctor. A less severe infection might hide from your naked eye, developing into a smoldering long-term infection or coming back later.
After Your Doctor’s Visit
Your healthcare professional should tell you how to take care of any wounds or infections you have. You should keep the following things in mind for different treatments.
After surgery, you will need to perform hand exercises and wound care as instructed by your doctor. Neglecting these can risk infection or lead to permanent loss of function in the affected hand.
You will have multiple follow-up visits with your doctor or another healthcare professional. While different wounds and surgeries have different recovery times, expect periodic updates to your recovery plan.
Keeping your stitches clean and dry encourages healing and prevents infection. Try to rest your hand as well. Even small movements can tug at the stitches.
During your second visit to your doctor, the doctor will look at the wounds and decide whether the stitches can come out. Your doctor will also look for signs of infected stitches. As with surgery, be sure to follow all instructions from your healthcare professionals.
If your infection doesn’t clear up after the first course of antibiotics, make sure to reach out to your doctor again. The disease you have may require a different antibiotic or a different treatment plan.
Better Luck Next Time? No, Better Technique Next Time
After your first experience with avocado hand, you’ll want to make sure you don’t have a second. Here, we’ll look at some of the best techniques you can use to avoid stabbing yourself in the hand.
When you use a knife in the kitchen, always cut away from yourself. For the first step of cutting an avocado, try placing your hand flat on the top and pushing it against a cutting board rather than holding it in the palm of your hand.
Use a Different Knife
If you must use the prying technique for avocado pit removal, consider using a butter knife or a table knife. By eliminating the sharp point and edge, you can reduce the risk of a serious injury. Even a spoon will work just fine for this one.
This does carry the risk of removing a little bit of avocado flesh alongside the pit. Before you agonize over that too much, consider who you want to bear the burden of losing a few grams of flesh. Your green, delicious friend will bear this hardship without complaint.
Push It Out
If none of that sounds appealing, try the avocado pit push technique. This simple technique earned a lot of notoriety on TikTok as more home chefs gave it a try.
With two fingers on either side of the pit, push against it from outside the avocado gently with your thumb. As you push, the pit will start to pop out of its socket.
If you’re attached to a risky avocado cutting technique and none of that sounds good to you, at least consider some protective gear. Cut-resistant gloves can help you avoid stabbing and slashing wounds in the kitchen.
Make sure to avoid coated gloves if you intend to use them in the kitchen. A lot of coatings can contaminate food or lose their effectiveness.
Likewise, do not treat cut-resistant gloves as if they render you impervious to hand-related harm. Different gloves provide different resistance levels, so some gloves will leave you with plenty of opportunities to slice yourself up.
A Helping Avocado Hand
While the idea of an “avocado hand” might draw an amused chortle or two, the wounds that come from being flippant about kitchen safety don’t give you much to laugh at. You can lose function in your hand permanently from a deep stab or chop off a finger. Make sure to keep these avocado hand facts in mind the next time you deal with a major kitchen injury.
Whether it’s a long-term stress injury or an immediate wound-related problem, our hand specialists can help you treat conditions affecting your hands and regain lost functionality. Contact us today if you’re in the Houston area and need help taking hand health back into your hands.