This study of which instant soups are more prone to tip over (and pour scalding liquid and hot noodles all over an unsuspecting toddler) is pretty scary, especially considering how frequently it happens in D.C.:

Through calls to a dozen burn units at hospitals across the country, we learned that this is a common phenomenon, with children being the most frequent victims. Eight of the 12 hospitals said they see the injury several times a week. One hospital located in Washington D.C. says they regularly see 5-6 patients a week with the injury, especially during the colder months.

Noodle soup is strangely perfect for delivering a serious burn. The sticky noodles cling to the skin, which leads to deeper, more severe burns, according to a study published in 2007. The study showed that hospital stays for upper body noodle-soup burns are more than twice as long as scalds from hot liquids alone. Garner says that about one in five children he sees with the burns end up needing surgery, and these patients can face permanent scarring and limited mobility in their joints.

A surgical resident friend of mine agrees that the burns are common: “We had them so frequently at Children’s Hospital. I will never have [instant noodles] in the house.”

But for a lot of people, a cup of instant noodles is a hot, filling meal that’s also cheap, shelf-stable, and convenient. NPR points out that here is a case where design might make a big difference. The “tippiest” brand is the cheapest: Nissin’s Cup Noodles. One scientist argues that a cheap and easy fix would be to invert the cup, making the opening the narrowest part. Naturally, though, none of the soup companies responded to requests for comment.

Photo by Matsuyuki via Flickr/Creative Commons Attribution Generic 2.0 License