Children often burned by microwaves

March 20, 2009 4:39:15 AM PDT
Most parents know to keep kids away from stoves, but what about microwaves?Four-year-old Kya showed Eyewitness News what microwave soup did to her two years ago.

"Ouchie," she explained.

Her mom Jeanine McCauley remembers a much louder ouchie. She'd stepped out to the bathroom when an older child left some just-microwaved soup in reach of Kya's high-chair.

"She pulled them on top of her and it fell on her lap. So we had to pick up all the noodles off of her legs so they wouldn't keep burning and pat it down. But it wasn't just noodles that were coming up it was her skin coming off too, said McCauley. "I didn't know what to do as a mom. I didn't know what to do. I was freaking out."

Kya still bears the scars of that day.

"You can see where her skin was coming off and you can see the big huge blisters everywhere," said McCauley.

Even though they're disturbing, McCauley wants people to see the pictures of the burns when they were fresh and so do doctors at UNC's Jaycee Burn Center. They've seen 24 kids burned by microwaved meals in the past 2 years.

"These are serious injuries, the liquids are very hot and can be much hotter than some of the clothing that can catch on fire," explained Dr. Bruce Cairns "In just an instant you can have a very deep burn."

We wanted to see just how hot microwaved foods can get. Following the directions on a package of soup, we quickly got a liquid temperature of 190 degrees. That's hot enough to cause third-degree burns on a child's skin instantly.

There's no child lock on a microwave, so doctors say parents are the best protection. McCauley now keeps her kids out of the kitchen altogether when she's cooking.

"She knows now that she's older to stay away from things. she's taught some of her friends not to go near things," McCauley explained.

And it's not just kids. While researching this story, we found two adults in the Eyewitness Newsroom who were burned eating microwaved food.

Microwave Scald Prevention Tips

Microwave ovens are thought by many families to be “safer” than conventional ovens and stoves. In these families, young children may be permitted to use the microwave but not other heating appliances. However, they heat foods and liquids to very high temperatures, resulting in burns from spills, splashes and release of steam. The face and upper body are the most common areas burned on children. Hands, arms, abdomens and legs are more frequently injured with adults. In addition to reading and following manufacturer’s instructions, other microwave safety pointers include:

· Place microwaves at a safe height, within easy reach, for all users to avoid spills. The face of the person using the microwave should always be higher than the front of the door. All users should be tall enough to reach the microwave oven door, easily view the cooking area, and handle the food safely. Microwaves installed above counters or stoves can be a scald hazard for anyone.

· Children under age 7 should not operate the microwave unless they are closely supervised.

· Never heat baby bottles of formula or milk in the microwave, especially those with plastic bottle liners. When the bottle is inverted, plastic liners can burst, pouring scalding liquids onto the baby. Always mix the formula well and test on the back of a hand or inner wrist before feeding.

· Steam, reaching temperatures greater than 200 degrees, builds rapidly in covered containers and can burn the face, arms and hands. Puncture plastic wrap or use vented containers to allow steam to escape while cooking. Or, wait at least one minute before removing the cover. When removing covers, lift the corner farthest from you and away from your face or arm.

· Steam in microwave popcorn bags is hotter than 180 degrees. Follow package directions, allow to stand one minute before opening, and open bag away from the face.

· Foods heat unevenly in microwaves. Jelly and cream fillings in pastries may be extremely hot, even though outer parts feel only warm.

· Microwaved foods and liquids may reach temperatures greater than boiling without the appearance of bubbling. Stir and test food thoroughly before serving or eating.

Microwaves aren't the only problem.

According to Safe Kids Wake County, about 113,600 children ages 14 and under are treated for fire/burn injuries in the U.S. every year and 518 children die due to unintentional fire-and burn-related injury.

Kids are also at risk around space heaters, steam irons and curling irons. Safe Kids Wake County urges caregivers to:

· Reduce water temperature. Set your hot water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Consider putting anti-scald devices (about $40) on each water faucet and shower head. Check the bathwater with your wrist or elbow before placing your child in it.

· Prevent spills. If possible, cook with pots and pans on back burners and turn handles away from the front. Avoid wearing long sleeves or baggy clothes in the kitchen. Don't place containers of hot food or liquid near the edge of a counter or table and remove tablecloths.

· Establish a "kid-free zone." Make the stove area a "kid-free zone" (3 feet is a good distance). Mark it on the floor with bright tape. Never leave your child alone in the kitchen. Don't hold children while cooking or while carrying hot foods and beverages.

· Test food and drink temperature. Taste cooked foods and heated liquids to make sure they're not too hot for children. Never microwave a baby's bottle. Drinks heated in a microwave may be much hotter than their containers. Instead, heat bottles with warm water and test them before feeding your child.

· Keep electrical cords out of reach - especially extension cords and cords connected to heating appliances such as coffee pots and deep fryers. Make sure electrical cords can't be pulled or snagged into a bathtub or sink. Don't leave a hot iron sitting on an ironing board unattended.

· Childproof your home. Cover open electrical outlets so children can't insert metal objects into outlets, which can cause electrical burns. Lock matches, lighters and flammable materials out of a child's reach. Keep children away from candles and other open flames.

· Actively supervise. Simply being in the same room with a child is not necessarily supervising. Safety precautions are important, but there is no substitute for active supervision.

· Don't let children play with or ignite fireworks. Fireworks injured more than 2,304 children in 2006. Fireworks are intended for use by adults in open spaces with plenty of active supervision for every child present.

For more information about burn prevention, visit www.usa.safekids.org


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