Instant soups and noodle burns are sending kids to emergency

Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK
Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK 

They might be easy to prepare, but instant soups and noodles are sending thousands of kids to emergency each year due to nasty burns, according to new research.

"Scald burns are a major cause of preventable injury among children, and our research found that instant soup spills are responsible for a large number of these painful burns," said lead author Dr Courtney Allen.

As part of the study, the initial findings of which were presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) 2018 National Conference and Exhibition this week, Dr Allen examined The US National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) database from January 2006 - December 2016 for cases of scald burns in children aged four to twelve years. They looked for burns caused by either microwavable instant soup, instant noodles, cup of soup, or water for making instant soup. And the results were alarming: burns related to instant soups and noodles affect more than 9,500 children annually.

The most common age was around seven and the most common injury site was the trunk, followed by the legs/feet/knee/ankle region.

"Instant soups and noodles in prepackaged cups and bowls may seem simple to prepare just by adding water and microwaving them," Dr. Allen said. "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."

As well as supervision, Dr Allen notes that the food product industry may also need to consider structural changes to packaging to prevent injuries as well, for example, making them more difficult to tip over.

But while the study is based on US numbers, doctors in Australia have previously raised concerns about burns from instant noodles. A 2012 study leady by Professor Andrew Holland, children's health and burns specialist, warned that one child each week was presenting to The Children's Hospital, Westmead for serious burns caused by hot soups and noodles.

The research, published in the journal Burnsused data from the New South Wales Severe Burn Injury Database recorded between 2005 and 2010. Researchers found that 291 children sustained instant hot noodle burns over the six years of the study - around 5 per cent of all kids referred to the burns unit. "When cooked according to manufacturer's instructions, noodles generally exceeded temperatures sufficient to cause a burn," the authors wrote. "Consumers and parents need to be aware of the risks of burn when preparing these foods."

The team also looked at the "thermal properties" of different noodles. "Cup noodles cooked with boiling water reached the highest temperature of over 80°C and took the longest time to cool to 50°C: on average 52.3 min," the authors wrote at the time. "Cup noodles in smaller, narrower containers achieved higher post-cooking temperatures compared to noodles in wider, bowel shaped containers. Packet noodles cooked in a Microwave oven attained lower peak temperatures and shorter cooling times compared to cup noodles."

Advertisement

Both this study and another Australian study published last year in Burns, also highlighted that children were not receiving proper first aid after sustaining a burn injury. Researchers from the University of Queensland surveyed parents of 54 little ones aged 0-3 years who were treated for a hot drink burn, (over a 12 month period), at Lady Cilento Children's Hospital. Only 28 per cent received correct first aid after a hot drink spill - applying 20 minutes of cool running water to the burn.​

According to lead author Jacqui Burgess of the Centre for Children's Burns and Trauma Research, applying cool water to the scald, reduces pain, scarring and hospital stays. "The most common reason parents reported applying water for shorter periods of time was that they thought it was adequate or the child was too distressed," she said.

According to Kidsafe burns and scalds are a major cause of serious injury in children from newborn to 14 years old. "Children under four years, especially those aged between one and two years are most at risk due to their increased mobility and natural curiosity,"  they say.

When it comes to scald and burns prevention, Kidsafe advises parents:

  • Don't hold your child when having a hot drink
  • Keep kettles, jugs, mugs and cups out of reach
  • Place burn or scald under cool running water for 20 minutes