A recent report from National Public Radio freelance reporter Mara Zepeda (formerly of WHYY in Philadelphia) draws attention to a very serious, yet little known public health hazard—instant soup spills causing severe burns in young children.
According to several academic papers (here and here), hot soups, especially those prepackaged in foam cups, are one of the leading causes of burns in kids. The reason: the lightweight foam and top-heavy design of the cups are unstable and can easily tip over. Injuries occur when younger children pull the cups onto themselves. According to another study, because “the cooling curve of noodle soup is much slower, noodle soup may present a greater danger to children than other types of soup.” The noodles, sticky and hot, adhere to a victim’s skin leading to more severe burns.
In her report, Zepeda said she called a dozen burn units around the United States, and found that eight of them see soup injuries several times a week.
Scald burns among kids are twice as common as other types of burns in this country. In one study, soup scald burns accounted for 8% of total inpatient burn admissions and “tend to involve important functional areas, such as the hand and face.” This study also found that “injuries tend to occur in low-income and low-educational level households with multiple children when the soup is heated in tall, narrow containers.” This statistic shouldn’t be a surprise—in these hard economic times, instant soups are cheap and convenient, and an easy option for a busy family.