How Instant Soup, Noodles Send Over 9500 Kids To ERs Each Year

Food & Drink

An analyses showed how many kids each year may suffer scald burns from instant sup and needles bad enough to seek medical care. (Photo: Getty Images)

Gee what should you give kids who are 4 to 12 years old? A fluffy teddy bear? A soft blanket? How about some scalding hot water?

Unless your kids are munching on dry ramen right out of the package or directly eating packets of soup dust, hot water is a key component to preparing instant soup or noodles. But the problem with scalding hot water is that it can be scalding. And apparently each year over 9,500 children in the 4 to 12 year age suffer bad enough scald burns from such food that needed medical attention. That’s according to a study that Courtney Allen DO, FAAP, from Emory University will be presenting at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) 2018 National Conference and Exhibition.

The study was an analysis of data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) over an 11-year period (2006 to 2016). The NEISS pulls from a sample of hospitals in the U.S. and its territories and includes patients information on each emergency department visit. Since this was a presentation at a medical conference, rather than a publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, extensive details on the methods and data used were not available and did not go through comprehensive scientific peer review. Therefore, every result and conclusion must be taken with a grain of salt (and maybe some ramen.)

Regardless of the exact numbers, though, it is still a significant number of kids who suffered more than just “ouchies.” They had to be bad enough for the parents and kids to seek medical attention. Close to a tenth of the visits ended up being hospitalized. Kids suffering scald injuries were on average 7.22 years old with the most common age being 4 years old. The most common part of the body affected was the trunk (40.1%), followed by the lower extremities (30.2%). 

Parents, your kid may be your little teapot. But don’t put boiling hot water in, near, or on them. A 4-year-old may not quite get the notion of something being steaming hot. Heck, as I have written before for Forbes, the “Hot Water Challenge” shows that even teenagers and adults do not always understand the risks of pouring boiling water on someone or drinking boiling water through a straw. Stupidity knows no age limits.

Instead, use these precautions:

  1. Don’t let kids who are too young make their own instant soup or noodles. Regardless of whether you think your 4-year old is a ramen-making prodigy, he or she still needs to be old and experienced enough to know what precautions to take.
  2. Let the soup or noodles sit and cool for a short time. Yes, you probably opted for instant soup or noodles for a reason. But there is still no such thing as a soup or ramen emergency. Haste can make waste and a scald injury.
  3. Carefully wave your hand close to the soup or noodles to get a sense of how hot they are. This should not be aggressive waving as if you haven’t seen the noodles in a long time, because doing so may cause a spill. When appropriate, such as at home with the kids and a clean finger, you may even use your finger to test how hot the soup is. This is probably not proper etiquette at a company dinner even if you think your boss is a 4-year old.
  4. Before anyone eat them, stir up the soup or noodles to evenly distribute the heat. Stir means physically stir mix not shout insults at the soup. Otherwise, there can be hidden pockets of more intense steam or heat.
  5. Use a container that will insulate your and your kid’s hands from the heat. You’ve heard of the play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof? Well, beware of soup in a hot tin can. Accidents may occur when you try to grab the container and drop it because it is too hot.
  6. Use a container that will remain stable. Don’t serve the soup or noodles in a tall, thin container that may easily tip over or something flimsy like a plastic bag or underwear.
  7. Make sure you and your kid are in stable positions when eating. Eating ramen while on a treadmill is a bad idea.
  8. Use proper utensils. Don’t let your kid chug or use a straw to drink soup. This does not give time for the soup to cool off or you to adjust to the heat. Soup is not beer. (Don’t feed your 4-year old beer, by the way.)
  9. Do a careful test taste before proceeding. Again, instant soup or noodles can be like nerds, hotter than they initially seem.
  10. Make you and your kid pace yourselves while eating. First of all, shut up. Talking while eating hot stuff can be a bad combination. Smartphones can also be a distraction. Eating hot food should not be a race.

Remember, even though they may look different when they are ready to eat, instant soup and noodles are still essentially boiling or recently boiling water. Would you give your 4-year-old a pot of boiling water and say, “go for it”? Taking the proper precautions will help prevent your kid from instantly ending up in the ER.

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