Love Avocados? Protect Against Avocado Hand

Over the past many years, avocado consumption has greatly increased.  From 1985-2019, avocado consumption in the United States increased six-fold to over 2.6 billion pounds in 2019.  Avocados are a great source of vitamins and are packed with healthy fats, dietary fiber, and a lot of other nutrients. They contain more potassium than bananas and are loaded with heart-healthy fatty acids. The popularity of avocado-containing foods such as guacamole and avocado toast have increased on restaurant menus as well as in people’s kitchens.  Unfortunately, along with this popularity, the incidence of avocado-related knife injuries has also increased.  According to a 2019 article in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, there were 27,059 avocado-related knife injuries between 2013-2017.

Though some of these injuries, at first glance, appear to be minor, the actual damage done by the knife can be significant.  Often, these injuries are deep, requiring stitches and even surgery to repair nerves, vessels and tendons.  If one of the mentioned surgeries are needed, a long rehabilitation process in hand therapy may be required to get your hand function back to normal.

So what can we do about this?  Stop eating avocados?  No!  We just need to learn correct methods to safely get the insides on our plates without getting an “avocado hand.”

First of all, make sure you are using a good, sharp knife. Here's how to cut an avocado:

  1. On a dry, flat surface or cutting board, hold the avocado on its side. Make an initial cut on the side, and then rotate the avocado (not the knife) to cut it into halves.
  2. Take the pit out by scooping it with a large spoon. If that's not possible, use a chef's knife by striking the pit until the knife is gently lodged in the middle, then twist until the pit comes out. Be sure to place a towel in your hand under the half to get a better grip. To remove the pit from the knife, either use your thumb to carefully push it off, or use the dish towel to pull it from the knife.
  3. For avocado slices or chunks, use your knife to slice it directly in the skin. Then, use a spoon to scoop out the avocado from the peel.

Another method for achieving slices of avocado is to cut the avocado into four chunks (quarters) in the first step above. This will make it easier for the pit to dislodge, potentially without using your knife. Once quartered, you may be able to peel the skin off (depending on the ripeness), and simply slice the pieces of the avocado directly on a cutting board.

There are some “avocado slicers” on the market, but sometimes these may be confusing on their own.  The key is to feel comfortable with your method. Go slowly, and don’t take your eyes off the food while cutting.

Despite following the above recommendations, accidents may still happen. If an accidental stab or cut to the hand occurs, the following actions may be considered. If there is a moderate amount of bleeding from the knife injury, apply pressure to the wound area with a clean cloth.  In addition, one may elevate the hand above the level of the heart and apply ice for pain and swelling. If the bleeding does not stop after 15 minutes or if the wound is large enough, a trip to an urgent care facility, emergency room or your doctor's office should be made within six to eight hours.

If you're experiencing numbness and tingling around the cut or in the finger area, consider making an appointment with a hand surgeon within a week. Numbness and tingling in the hand and finger may suggest a nerve injury. If there is a nerve injury, it is best to repair the nerve within three weeks from the injury. If one has trouble bending and straightening the finger, this may suggest a tendon injury.  In this scenario, consider seeing a hand surgeon, also within three weeks. Repairing the tendon, if necessary, should be done within three weeks of the injury. Your hand surgeon may give consideration to a tetanus toxoid inoculation and possibly antibiotics.

Source: American Society for Surgery of the Hand

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