Avocados have become increasingly popular in recent years, due in part to their wide availability, delicious flavor and impressive health benefits. These alligator pears, as they’re nicknamed, are good for your whole body, including your heart.
If you need an excuse to add more avocados to your plate this American Heart Month, avocados love you right back as they’re full of nutrients your body needs, like:
- Healthy fats
- Minerals like potassium and manganese
Although they’re nutritious, avocados can pose a danger to your hands when trying to get to their tasty, green insides.
Emergency departments across the country are seeing increasing numbers of patients come in with cuts on their hands from accidents involving avocados, leading to a new term being coined: avocado hand.
Unfortunately, avocado hand is specifically responsible for thousands of injuries each year. But when you slice it safely, you don’t have to be avocado hand’s next victim during American Heart Month.
As you gear up the guac or homemade avocado toast, take extra care to cut your avocados safely, and know where to go in case of an emergency.
What Is Avocado Hand?
Avocado hand happens when you’re cutting an avocado while holding it. If you’re holding the avocado and using a knife to remove the pit, the knife can easily slip and slice your hand or fingers.
Avocados are full of good fats, making them slippery and difficult to handle, so using a knife to get the pit out may spell surgery for your hand. More than a little skin can be severed, and you may need microsurgery, in some cases — not the best way to end a nice brunch.
“Be careful, take your time and use a cutting board,” recommends board-certified hand surgeon Anup Patel, MD. “I see between five to ten cases come through my practice caused specifically by avocados every year.”
More Than a Flesh Wound: Tendons and Nerves Get Sliced, Too
It can be tempting to hold your avocado while cutting it for ease and stability — and just out of habit, too. But remember that your hands and fingers are home to delicate networks of nerves and blood vessels that could easily be damaged, too.
“It’s very common for these accidents to sever nerves, arteries and tendons, which require microsurgery to repair,” says Dr. Patel. Depending on where and how deep the cut is, avocado hand may need this special type of surgery.
Surgery for Avocado Hand
If you accidentally sever your fingers or hand while making your signature seven-layer dip, rest assured that experienced, compassionate surgeons like Dr. Patel can help you through hand and wrist surgeries like microsurgery.
Microsurgery is a special type of surgery where a surgeon uses a microscope to see the very fine details of these tissues to repair them. The procedure is on such a small scale that the suture material used to stitch up these small parts is thinner than a human hair.
Microsurgeons, like Dr. Patel, are specially trained for these procedures and have many hours of practice to perform at the level they do.
How to Avoid Avocado Hand
To avoid avocado hand, Dr. Patel’s advice is simple: Don’t hold your avocado in your hand when you slice it.
Whether you’re making a tried-and-true guac recipe, or a mouth-watering avocado, tomato and habanero cheddar grilled cheese, you don’t have to put your fingers at risk of avocado hand. To stay safe when cutting avocados:
- Cut the avocado horizontally (around the middle), not vertically
- Never hold an avocado in your palm while slicing in
- Use a cutting board to slice the avocado
- Use a spoon to scoop out the avocado pit
- Wear protective kitchen gloves
Additionally, numerous videos online exist that can show you different techniques for how to cut an avocado safely. It’s worth your time to look up a few tips if it means the difference between a relaxing meal and a case of avocado hand.
Avocado Hand: Should You Get Urgent Care or Emergency Care?
If you get avocado hand, it’s important to know where to go. “If you cut yourself while trying to pit or slice an avocado, you’ll likely require stitches,” says Dr. Patel.
“If you can control the bleeding, still move your fingers and don’t have any numbness, then you likely only require a visit to an urgent care center,” he says.
“However, if you cannot control or stop the bleeding, or if you’ve lost the ability to move your fingers or have numbness in them, you’ll likely require surgery to repair the damage. Call an ambulance or have someone drive you to the emergency department immediately.”
If it’s discovered in the emergency department you’ve lacerated an artery, tendon or nerve, you’ll be referred to one of our highly trained surgeons for microsurgery to repair it, like Dr. Patel.
Where You’re in Good Hands
At AdventHealth, our specially trained surgeons successfully treat food prep injuries like avocado hand and offer expert orthopedic care for hands and wrists. When accidents happen, you can rest assured that you’ll be in good hands with expert hand surgeons close to home. Learn more today.