Over a quarter of children rushed to the University of Chicago (UChicago) Burn Center between 2010 and 2020 suffered from instant ramen burns, a new study revealed.
The paper, published in the Journal of the International Society for Burn Injuries on Jan. 20, reviews data gathered from the UChicago Burn Center, notably cases of scalding incidents among children below 18 years old.
The study noted that of the 790 pediatric patients admitted to the hospital with scalding injuries from Jan. 1, 2010, to Dec. 31, 2019, 245 (31%) were children who suffered burns from handling or eating instant noodles.
After comparing the data from other scalding incidents, the study stated that those who suffered from ramen burns were likely older children and of African American descent. It was also noted that some patients came from “zip codes with a lower average childhood opportunity index score.”
The researchers believe that the incidents likely happened to unsupervised children, as UChicago Medicine noted in a report that 40% of instant noodle burning incidents occurred when the pediatric patients were alone.
“Direct caregiver supervision is one important step in burn prevention,” Sebastian Vrouwe, MD, assistant professor of surgery at UChicago Medicine and the senior author of the study, said.
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“The amount of heat contained in these noodles can easily cause second- and third-degree burns in anyone, but young children are particularly vulnerable due to their relatively smaller bodies and thinner skin.”
UChicago Medicine explained that while instant noodle burns have different patterns of burns than those of hot water and are slightly less severe than other burn causes, they could still pose dangers that may result in hospitalization.
The data showed that instant noodle burn victims have a shorter length of stay in the hospital but experience similar complication rates.
“Anecdotally, it felt like every other child we were consulted on for a burn was injured by instant noodles, so we wanted to dive into the data to see what the trend really was,” Vrouwe said. “Our hope is to develop the groundwork for future burn prevention programming, as essentially all childhood burns are in some way preventable.”
About 100,000 children reportedly suffer burns from food and drinks in the United States yearly, the report said.
As prevention, Vrouwe advised that parents and caregivers should remove instant noodles from the microwave and keep them from children’s reach until they have cooled down.
Another way that adults can ensure the safety of their children is by lowering the temperature of the water used, Vrouwe added.
Lowering hot water heaters to 120 degrees Fahrenheit is one established way to prevent burns in the home. If these reminders come from a trusted source, such as a child’s pediatrician, we feel this might change behaviors over time and reduce the probability of sustaining burns.