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Instant soups and noodles prepared in a microwave can also harm a child in an instant.
The products, which many families turn to for a quick, convenient snacks or meals, are responsible for burning almost 10,000 children ages 4 to 12 each year, new research has found. They cause at least two out of every 10 scald burns that send kids to emergency rooms.
The findings will be presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference in Orlando, Florida, on Monday.
Dr. Courtney Allen, one of the authors and a Pediatric Emergency Medicine Fellow at Emory University, began looking into the trend after noticing that many young burn patients coming into Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta had been handing microwavable instant soup products just before getting hurt.
“We see time and time again the story of, ‘Oh, he was carrying soup’ or ‘He was pulling soup out of the microwave,’” Allen told TODAY.
“We were definitely surprised by the (injury numbers)… That’s a large number that, possibly with education and other considerations, you could prevent those injuries.”
For the study, Allen and her colleagues analyzed data in the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System from 2006 to 2016. They looked for kids whose scald burns were caused by microwavable instant soup, instant noodles, a cup of soup or water for making instant soup.
They found more than 9,500 children ages 4 to 12 were scalded by those products each year. The peak age for the injuries was 7 and the most commonly burned area of the body was the torso.
The cases in the database covered every stage of the cooking and eating process, including kids getting hurt while removing soup from the microwave or walking across the room carrying the cup, Allen noted.
The injuries included first-, second- and third-degree burns, though 90 percent of the young patients were discharged from the ER after receiving treatment, she added.
What makes instant soup and noodles such a burn risk?
Many people assume that heating up a liquid in a microwave is safer than reaching for something coming off a stove. But microwaved water can be just as hot as water boiled on the range, Allen said.
The findings show the need to carefully watch a child who is cooking, carrying or eating instant soup or noodles.
“One of the most important things to remember is that no matter how old your child is and no matter which product you’re using, any liquids that have been heated up in the microwave can pose a risk,” Allen said.
Many of the cups the products are sold in have a narrow base and are tall, so they tip over easily, said NBC News medical contributor Dr. Natalie Azar. Plus, the noodles are very sticky.
“So if a young child comes up to a table, pulls (the cup) over easily, the noodles will get stuck on them and can cause severe enough burns that the child requires surgery,” Azar said.
Burns from noodle soup cause significantly longer hospital stays than burns from other types of soup because noodles stay hotter longer and “the cooling curve for noodle soup is much slower,” one study found.
Look for a cup with a wider base or keep it out of children’s reach, Azar advised.
The industry may want to consider a container design change or a warning label alerting parents that children should not be carrying these products, Allen said.
If your child has been scalded:
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has these first aid tips for minor burns:
- If your child’s clothing is not stuck to the burn, remove it.
- Use cool water, but not ice, to soothe the pain and help limit the extent of the burn. Hold the burned skin under cool running water for 10 to 15 minutes. If that’s not possible, put a cool, clean, wet cloth on the area.
- If the burn is deeper, larger, or on the hand, foot, face, groin, buttocks, hip, knee, ankle, shoulder, elbow or wrist, seek medical care right away.