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The Dangers of Hot Liquids: How to Keep Children Safe This Winter

There’s nothing better than warming up with a hot cup of soup or cider when it gets cold outside. But, hot liquids can cause pediatric scald burns, with instant soups accounting for 1 in 5 pediatric scald burns every year. Seattle Children’s Hospital says, “Young children have thinner skin than older kids and adults, so they burn easier. Children ages 4 and under are at the most risk for scald burns because they like to explore and do not know what can hurt them.”

Allow hot soup to cool before serving to children

Why Hot Liquids are Dangerous for Young Children

Instant soups are responsible for nearly 10,000 pediatric burns every year. Pediatric burns happen fast, most within a matter of seconds. Seattle Children’s Hospital says, “Kids change so fast that parents and caregivers sometimes don’t know their child can reach hot liquids and foods that would have been at a safe distance only a short time before.”

Hot Liquid Facts:

  • Most burns affect the “trunk,” this is from the shoulders to the groin.

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

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

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

  • Nearly 75% of all pediatric burns are preventable.

Why Children Get Pediatric Burns

Young children are especially curious, and most don’t know the meaning of the word hot. Children like to touch and taste anything they can get their hands on, so microwaves, countertops, tables, cups, bowls, and sinks quickly become dangerous. Children should always be supervised by an adult and kept away from hot liquids. Caregivers should also keep the floor clutter-free to avoid tripping and spilling hot liquids.

Pediatric burns happen quickly:

  • Children pull soup down from the microwave themselves.

  • Parents wrongly assume that instant soups are safer than soup coming out of a stove.

  • Uncoordinated walking while holding soup.

  • Children spill soup while eating.

  • Children get too close to the stove where hot steam or hot liquids are cooking.

  • Parents drink hot liquids without using a lid, and curious children grab for the drink.

  • Unsupervised children turn on the hot water in the kitchen or bathroom.

How to Prevent Childhood Pediatric Burns

The good news is that most pediatric scald burns are preventable. All it takes is extra safety precautions. The Mayo Clinic says to reduce scald burns by, “reducing the water temperature, establishing ‘no’ zones for children, keeping hot devices such as curling irons out of reach of children, and testing food temperatures before feeding young children.”

Avoid Pediatric Scald Burns:

  • Keep children out of the kitchen while cooking hot liquids.

  • Never leave children alone in the bathroom where they can turn on the hot water in the sink or bathtub.

  • Be extra cautious when allowing children to handle instant soups and warm liquids.

  • Never leave a child unsupervised with instant soup.

  • Make sure to cool soups and hot drinks before serving them to children.

  • 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 or warm liquids.

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

  • Teach children to turn on the cold water first, before turning on hot water.

  • Turn pot handles inwards and out of the reach of children.

  • Make sure to cook hot liquids on the back burners of the stove.

  • Avoid tablecloths: young children can pull on them and spill hot liquids.

  • Teach children what “hot” means and why they must be careful around hot liquids.

  • Never place hot coffee/liquids in a child’s stroller cup holder.

If a child is burned, immediately remove his/her clothing, and run the affected tissue under cold water. If the burns are severe, take your child to the emergency room right away.

The Institute for Childhood Preparedness can prepare your child care program for an emergency, such as a pediatric scald burn by making sure your first-aid kit is up-to-date, and by updating phone numbers for local emergency services. If a scald burn is severe, never hesitate to call 9-1-1. Schedule a site safety survey and risk management evaluation today:



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