Study: 1 in 5 childhood scald burns caused by instant soup, ramen

New research led by Emory University scientists suggests one in five childhood scald burns are caused by soups like instant soup or ramen.

» RELATED: Georgia police investigating $98,000 ramen noodles heist

The findings, which will be presented Monday at the American Academy of Pediatrics Conference in Orlando, Florida, involve 11 years of data on more than 4,500 recorded pediatric scald burns from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System.

Researchers found that 21.5 percent of all scald burns (approximately 972 injuries) were associated with these microwavable, prepackaged products. They estimated that the products are the culprit behind 10,000 pediatric burns in the United States each year. 

Most burns, according to the study, affected the trunk region, or the area between the shoulders to the groin, in children between 4-7 years old.

» RELATED: What is acute flaccid myelitis? Georgia toddlers treated for rare illness causing paralysis

While 90 percent of patients burned by instant soup were discharged from emergency rooms after evaluation, children with scald burns can end up requiring surgery and hospitalization.

Burns are caused by dry heat, but scald burns are a result of something wet, such as hot water or steam. Both types of burns can be quite painful, causing peeling red skin, blisters, swelling and charred skin.

“Instant soups and noodles in prepackaged cups and bowls may seem simple to prepare just by adding water and microwaving them,” lead researcher Courtney Allen said in a university statement. “But once they’re heated up they become a dangerous burn risk. Caregivers need to closely supervise younger children who might otherwise get hurt if cooking for themselves.”

» RELATED: Severely burned boy recovering after accident with fire, rubbing alcohol

David Greenhalgh, chief of burns at Shriners Hospitals for Children - Northern California and former president of the American Burn Association, wasn’t involved in the study, but he told CNN he isn’t at all shocked by its findings.

“They knock [the soup] over, and it spills onto their lap,” he said. “They may have to come into the hospital for a while, or we teach the family how to take care of the burn, or some kids need skin grafts. But I am not surprised.

“What [companies] should do is make them like the Yoplait [yogurt] containers, where they're wider at the bottom and thinner at the top,” he suggested. “It would be a very simple thing to design and change.”

» RELATED: Mom accused of not seeking medical treatment for toddler's severe burns

Allen echoed those sentiments and said she hopes the industry will consider making structural changes to its packages to make it more difficult to tip the products over.

To prevent childhood burns from scalding or fires, the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges parents and guardians to cook with care, check water heater temperatures, have an escape plan in mind in case of a fire and install and maintain smoke alarms.

When it comes to diagnoses and treatments, it all comes down to the degree of your child’s injury. Most minor burns can be treated at home with first aid, including wound dressings or medication. But if you suspect a major burn, one that involves severe pain; waxy or leathery surfaces; redness or blisters, seek emergency care immediately. 

Learn more about burn diagnoses and treatments at mayoclinic.org.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

X