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July 19, 2018

The famous, and not-so-famous, sufferers of 'avocado hand'—and how to avoid becoming one of them

Daily Briefing

    Editor's note: This popular story from the Daily Briefing's archives was republished on Nov. 15, 2018.

    EDs have seen a rise in cases of so-called "avocado hand"—when someone accidentally stabs themselves in the hand while attempting to cut an avocado— leading one organization to call for warning labels to be placed on the fruit.

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    The perils of avocado hand

    U.S. avocado consumption has risen 250% since 2002, and with it so have cases of avocado hand, providers say. According to Scott Dresden from Northwestern University's emergency medicine department, avocado hand is something he sees regularly. "Patients try to stab the pit, the knife slips off the pit, and they stab the hand," he said. "Or patients do a sort of hacking motion with the long blade of the knife into the pit, and hack into the webbing between the thumb and the forefinger instead."

    The phenomenon has claimed a number of well-known victims, including Joy Behar—a comedian and co-host of "The View"—who spent the night in the hospital fighting an infection caused by an avocado hand incident, and actress Meryl Streep, who needed hand surgery following a similar incident.

    Cases of avocado hand have become so frequent that the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive, and Aesthetic Surgeons last year recommended that a safety-warning label be placed on avocados.

    How to avoid avocado hand—and what to do if you fall victim

    If you want to avoid avocado hand, the California Avocado Commission recommends that you cut the fruit lengthwise on a cutting board until you hit the seed, then turn it a quarter and cut it lengthwise once more. Then, the commission recommends that you use your hands to separate the avocado into quarters and pluck out the seed. Finally, to remove the avocado's skin, the commission says you should push your thumb under the skin and pull it back.

    But if you do end up falling victim to avocado hand, Dresden recommends elevating your hand and applying direct pressure to the wound. "This may be painful, but it's the quickest way to stop the bleeding and much better than a big wrap like a towel, which just absorbs blood," he said. Once the bleeding has stopped, Dresden said you should irrigate the wound with cold tap water. "Turn the tap on all the way … [and] if you can't stop the bleeding or it's a particularly gaping wound, come to the [ED], and we'll stitch you up" (Modern Healthcare, 7/14; Dampier, Chicago Tribune, 6/15).

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