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Microwave Oven Safety for Young Children

January 25, 2017

The microwave has been welcomed into the household as a quick and convenient method for heating foods and liquids. It is, however, as dangerous to young children as a cooktop or oven.

The Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery recently reported that an estimated 10,902 microwave-related burns that happened between 2002 and 2012 occurred to children between the ages of 12 months to 4 years. Nearly 68% of those burns were caused when the child removed the heated food or liquid from the microwave by themselves.

The most common burned body parts were the upper trunk and face. These scald burns were most frequently cause by water, noodles and soup. The report concludes that these types of burns could be prevented with a redesign of microwaves to stop young children from being able to open the microwave oven door.

The American Burn Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend the following simple safety tips to decrease the risk of microwave scald burns:

  • Make sure young children cannot reach the microwave. Microwaves should be placed at a safe height 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.
  • Never leave a young child alone while food is cooking in the microwave.
  • Children under age 7 should not operate the microwave unless they are closely supervised. Instruct and supervise older children and if they are too young to follow written directions, they are too young to use a microwave oven without supervision.
  • Steam, reaching temperatures greater than 200 degrees, builds rapidly in covered containers and can easily result in burns to 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, keep it outside the child’s reach and lift the corner farthest from you and away from your face or arm.
  • Foods heat unevenly in microwaves. Remember, the food may be extremely hot on the inside even though outer parts feel only warm. Stir food well or let it stand for two minutes before the child tastes it so the heat can distribute evenly.

It may be a very long time before manufacturers make microwave ovens childproof. Until they do, we can all help reduce microwave scald burn injuries in young children by following the above proven safety tips. 

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