Parents usually teach young children about the dangers of ovens and stoves, but they may be overlooking a significant source of burns—handling hot food and drinks from microwave ovens.
To prevent burns, microwave ovens should be equipped with safety controls to keep children from opening them and being scalded, according to a study published by University of Chicago Medical Center researchers in the October 2008 issue of the journal Pediatrics.
The researchers suggest that microwave ovens include a locking mechanism to make it difficult for young children to open a microwave after food or drinks have been heated. Many current models have an option to lock the oven, which requires the user to hold the start or stop/clear button for three to four seconds before it will operate. However, this does not stop a child from opening the oven after something has been heated, the study notes.
The study focused on 104 patients less than 5 years old admitted to the Medical Center’s Burn Unit between Jan. 1, 2002, and Dec. 31, 2004, for unintentional injuries, but not for tap water scalds. Researchers found that 90 percent of the 104 children were scalded by hot food or liquids.
Two unexpected patterns led up to the injuries. In the first, children between 18 months and 4 years were burned after they opened the microwave and removed hot foods or liquids themselves.
In the second, older children, ages 7 to 14, inadvertently burned younger children in their care. The incidents occurred when the older child accidentally spilled hot food on the young child or when the younger child was being supervised by the older child.
Burn injuries were most frequent in children between 10 and 21 months old. Most injuries occurred while children were at home being cared for by their family or primary caregiver.