Recognition and management of hot liquid aspiration in children

Ann Emerg Med. 1996 Jan;27(1):89-91. doi: 10.1016/s0196-0644(96)70302-5.


Although infrequently reported, aspiration of hot liquid can occur in conjunction with upper-body scald burns, leading to acute compromise of the small pediatric airway with clinical features similar to those of acute infectious epiglottitis. This can be a very difficult problem if subtle signs of impending airway compromise are not appreciated. Reported here are four such cases managed over a 3-year period at a regional pediatric burn center, emphasizing points of history and physical examination that facilitate early recognition of this life-threatening problem. Aspiration of hot liquid should be suspected in children with burns in or around the mouth, particularly if there are any subtle signs of upper airway edema. If this complication is suspected, immediate endotracheal intubation should be performed in those with acute respiratory embarrassment, and prompt investigation by direct laryngoscopy in the operating room is appropriate in those who have not yet developed overt respiratory distress.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Burns* / complications
  • Burns* / diagnosis
  • Burns* / therapy
  • Emergencies
  • Epiglottis / injuries*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Inhalation*
  • Intubation, Intratracheal
  • Laryngoscopy
  • Male
  • Oropharynx / injuries*
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / etiology*