Ramen noodle burns sending children to ER

Doctor says noodles retain heat, cling to child's skin when spilled

SAN ANTONIO – Aurelio Alvarez, 4, has pink splotches on his tummy and thigh. His skin is healing after his little body was scalded by ramen noodle soup.

"I would never imagine it would happen, you know, never," said his mother, Beatrice Hollingsworth.

It happens a lot.

"Unfortunately, it kind of happens all the time," said Dr. Lillian Liao, director of University Hospital's Pediatric Trauma and Burn Care program. "We can see two or three a day."

The popular three-minute noodle soup cups that many people cook in the microwave are inexpensive and convenient.

Hollingsworth said her son grabbed the Styrofoam cup of noodles off of the counter before they had cooled. As he sat down, the steaming hot noodles sloshed onto his lap, scalding his leg and abdomen.

"We didn't know what to do," Hollingsworth said. "He was just screaming. I just wrapped him up in a cold wet towel and took him straight to the emergency room."

The emergency room at University Hospital sees hundreds of children each year who have been burned by foods.

On one February morning, Aurelio is among three children receiving follow-up care after ramen noodle soup burns.

"We've seen cases where the skin actually needs to be replaced, which would be the most severe," Liao said. "The other ones, we end up doing wound-care for a week or two, and they'll end up having permanent scars, which can be devastating."

Yolanda Cisneros, 9, arrived with a blistered shoulder and cheek. She, too, was badly burned when her father said she ran through the kitchen and knocked over hot ramen noodles.

Doctors say noodle soups are a recipe for serious burns. The noodles retain heat longer than the broth, and they are sticky, so they cling to the child's tender skin.

The packages do have warnings that the noodles can be very hot, and to handle carefully, especially when serving children. Some instruct the consumer not to put the cup in the microwave, but rather pour boiling water into the cup.

One of the major manufacturers, Maruchan, did not return phone calls.

But, Nissin, the maker of Cup Noodles, did and issued this response:

"We want to assure you that safe and proper enjoyment of our products is one of Nissin's top priorities.  We are committed to meeting and exceeding all state, federal and manufacturing guidelines regulating our products and packaging. Our products are prominently labeled, with cooking instructions, product information and warnings that a hot product needs to be handled with care, including a lid-top reminder that caution should be used especially when serving our product to children.

"Our hearts go out to children and families who have suffered burns or injury of any kind. "

About the Author:

As a consumer reporter, Marilyn is all about helping people stay safe and save a buck. Since coming to KSAT in 1985, she’s covered everything from crime to politics, winning awards for her coverage of the Mexican Mafia, Oklahoma tornadoes, children’s transplants, an investigation into voting irregularities and even a hit-and-run Santa Claus.