Cooking-related pediatric burns: risk factors and the role of differential cooling rates among commonly implicated substances

J Burn Care Res. 2009 Jul-Aug;30(4):593-8. doi: 10.1097/BCR.0b013e3181ac02c8.


Cooking-related injuries are a common problem worldwide, resulting in more pediatric burns than any other cause. We identified risk factors-associated mechanisms and determined cooling curves for common substances. A retrospective review of children admitted to a Level I burn center between 2001 and 2006 was performed. Variables including injury mechanism, age, sex, race, burn area, length of stay, and outcome were recorded. Commonly implicated substances were identified, and cooling curves for each were measured at room temperature. Logistic regression analysis was performed to identify risk factors for cooking injury. A total of 541 pediatric burn patients were admitted, of whom 123 had cooking-related injuries. Common substances involved included soup (27%), grease (26%), coffee (18%), beans (9%), and menudo (2.3%), a traditional Mexican soup based on tripe, hominy, and chile. Children with cooking injuries were significantly younger than other groups, with a mean age of 2.7 years. The most common mechanism was the child pulling the substance down from a height, accounting for nearly half of all injuries. This resulted in a characteristic scald pattern involving a wide area across chest and shoulders narrowing to a point near the pelvis. The average burn area was 7%, associated with a hospital stay of 4 days and mortality below 1%. Analysis of cooling curves revealed surprising variation in heat retention, with semisolid or high-density liquids posing a markedly increased burn risk. Cooking injuries predominantly affect toddlers, with clearly recognized mechanisms and risk factors. Injury prevention measures should be targeted accordingly.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Home
  • Adolescent
  • Burns / epidemiology
  • Burns / etiology*
  • Burns / therapy
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cooking*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Length of Stay / statistics & numerical data
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • New Mexico / epidemiology
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Texas / epidemiology