More than 20 percent of pediatric scald burns in the U.S. are caused by instant soup, ramen noodle soup, and similar soup products, according to a new study presented Nov. 2 at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference.
Dr. Courtney Allen, a pediatric emergency fellow at Emory University who led the research, told CNN that it’s important for parents to remember that while instant soup is quick, easy and convenient, “these are just thin containers with boiling water in them.”
For the study, Dr. Allen and her fellow researchers looked at 4,500 pediatric scald burns recorded over an 11-year period in the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, a federal database that tracks consumer product-related injuries. They then searched the data for keywords such as “instant soup,” “instant noodles” and “cup of soup.”
The found that microwaveable soup products accounted for 21.5 percent of all the pediatric scald burns in the database. Based on their findings they estimate that instant soups are to blame for nearly 10,000 pediatric scald burns in the U.S. every year. Most of the scald burns from instant soup affect the abdomen, groin and legs.
The records in the database don’t typically describe exactly how spills occur, but physicians told CNN there are a few plausible scenarios.
“They knock [the soup] over, and it spills onto their lap,” Dr. David Greenhalgh, chief of burns at Shriners Hospitals for Children – Northern California and former president of the American Burn Association, told CNN. Dr. Greenhalgh was not involved in the research but he is familiar with pediatric scald cases caused by blistering hot instant soup. While most children are treated and released, some kids will sustain burn injuries that require skin grafts.
Dr. Allen told CNN she plans an extension of the study to see how these scald burns occur by observing children carrying and handling fake soup, such as water with dye in it.
“Is it because they’re pulling it down themselves from the microwave? Is it because when they walk they’re not coordinated enough and they spill? Or is it actually when they’re eating it that it’s tipping?” she asked, according to CNN.
Dr. Greenhalgh told CNN that the product design may not be suitable for children in a lot of cases because the containers are often flimsy and unstable. Still, some parents take a calculated risk because the soup is easy and quick and hope nothing goes wrong.
In a 2006 study published in the Journal of Burn Care and Research, Dr. Greenhalgh looked at the stability of instant soup containers and found that taller and thinner cups tipped over a lot easier than shorter, stockier ones.
Parents who continue to allow children to consume instant soup should put the soup in a more stable container or buy products that come in shorter cups or bowls that don’t tip over easily.