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  • Writer's pictureInstitute Staff

The Dangers of Instant Soup: 1 in 5 Children Rushed to the ER Each Year

Updated: Nov 2, 2020

It’s easy to forget that microwaveable soup, such as ramen, contains scalding hot water.

Dr. Courtney Allen is a pediatric emergency fellow at Emory University. Allen says, “I think there’s an assumption that these (instant soups) are safer than soup coming out of a stove.”

Why Instant Soup Can Be Dangerous For Children

Instant soups cause “one in five childhood scald burns.” Researchers recorded more than 4,500 pediatric scald burns over an 11-year period. The findings came from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System.

Allen’s study focused on children 4-12 years old. Researchers found:

  • 972 injuries were from microwaveable soup. These burns made up 21.5% of all scald burns in their sample.

  • Instant soups were responsible for nearly 10,000 pediatric burns every year.

  • More than 90% of children admitted to the ER went home after evaluation. But, some did require additional hospitalization, surgery, and skin grafts.

  • Most burns affected the “trunk.” This is the bodily region from the shoulders to the groin.

  • Most injuries happened to children between 4-7 years old.

  • Injuries included first-, second-, and third-degree burns.

  • Burns from noodles caused longer hospital stays than burns from other types of soups. This is because noodles stay hotter longer.

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We all love hot soup, especially in the winter, however it can be dangerous for young children.

Pediatric Scald Burns Can Happen Quickly

Dr. David Greenhalgh is chief of burns at Shriners Hospitals for Children. He says these burns are “A common story. They knock the soup over, and it spills onto their lap.” Allen is working to “identify what stage of the process kids are injuring themselves.” She says that most burns come from children pulling soup down from the microwave themselves. Other reasons include uncoordinated walking while holding soup and spilling soup while eating.

Instant Soup Burns Are Due to Poor Product Design

Instant soups “often come in flimsy paper or Styrofoam cups that are heated in microwaves, leaving boiling water in potentially unstable containers.” Researchers agree that instant soup companies should change their designs. They can make containers wider at the bottom and thinner at the top. This will help prevent tipping. Allen hopes that her research will serve as a “wake-up call for the industry.”

How the Institute for Childhood Preparedness Can Keep Child Care Programs Safe

At the Institute For Childhood Preparedness, we train individuals for possible life-threatening situations. We know prevention is the key to empowerment.

To prevent burns, parents and caregivers should prepare by:

  • Being extra cautious when allowing children to handle instant soups.

  • Never leave a child unsupervised with instant soup.

  • Cool soups before serving them.

  • Remove soup from original containers and place them in safer, more stable containers.

  • Before consuming noodles, stir them up so heat will distribute throughout the container.

  • Make sure children are sitting in stable positions before serving soup.

  • Take time to teach children about food safety and proper handling techniques.

  • If a child is burned, immediately remove his/her clothing. Run the affected tissue under cold water.

  • If parents notice blistering, then a physician should see the child.

  • Deep burns should receive medical attention right away. Especially burns on the hand, foot, face, groin, buttocks, hip, knee, ankle, shoulder, elbow, or wrist.

At the Institute For Childhood Preparedness, we provide training, exercises, and tactical methods to better prepare teachers, childhood providers, parents, and communities. We even prepare individuals for active shooter situations.

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