Many people feel that because a microwave oven doesn’t use fire and because the container generally doesn’t get very hot, it is safe to let young children use one. Healthday Magazine reports that “Scalds are the leading cause of burn-related emergency room visits and hospitalizations for young children under 5,” said lead researcher Dr. Gina Lowell, with the department of pediatrics at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.
Most of the scalds suffered by young children that require hospitalization are caused by hot foods or drinks, according to the findings, published in the October issue of Pediatrics.
Parents should tell their toddlers that when the bell on the microwave rings: “Mommy or daddy gets it first,” Lowell said. “It’s inappropriate for any child under 5 to be pulling anything out of the microwave.”
For the study, Lowell’s team looked at the medical records of children under 5 who were admitted to the University of Chicago burn center between January 2002 and December 2004. One hundred forty had scald burns, with 94 caused by hot foods or liquids.
Nine children between 18 months and 4 years old were scalded after opening a microwave oven and removing a hot substance. And 17 were burned when an older child, between the ages 7 and 14, was cooking, carrying a hot liquid, or supervising a younger child, according to the study.
To prevent these injuries, Lowell’s group thinks that microwaves should be redesigned to prevent young children from opening them. The child lock mechanisms currently on microwaves prevent children from operating the machines, but don’t prevent children from opening them after foods have been heated, she noted.
Education and awarness will help prevent what Dr. James G. Linakis, associate director of pediatric emergency medicine at Hasbro Children’s Hospital/Rhode Island Hospital sees:
“The majority of children we see in the emergency department with unintentional scalds are toddlers who have pulled down hot liquids from the stove or microwave onto themselves, and children who have been scalded by a hot liquid unintentionally spilled by an older child or adult,” he said. “These burns are extremely painful, and in some cases leave children with significant scarring. Efforts to prevent these causes of scald burns have the potential to make a significant impact on this type of injury.”