There are many ways parents can help keep their kids safe when using a microwave, including using microwave-safe cookware, teaching children to use potholders, and reminding kids to follow the microwave instructions on the package.

Microwave ovens are found in 90 percent of American households, and for many families a microwave can be convenient, quick and easy to use. However, a microwave can also pose potential risks for children such as burns and unhealthy eating habits.

The dangers of microwave ovens

For children, the most common microwave injury is burns. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), children can be burned by removing dishes from the microwave, spilling hot foods or liquids, opening microwave popcorn bags and other containers and eating food that is cooked unevenly or has hot spots.

Hot soups or water tend to be the biggest problem for children because the containers get soft, which can cause the water to spill on the children. Parents should make sure children are old enough and tall enough to reach the food or beverage they are heating up in the microwave.

Additionally, sometimes families tend to rely on convenient, microwaveable foods, which can be high in calories and fat. On occasion, these foods are fine for children to consume, but families should not rely on them too much. Instead, try eating leftovers and fruits and vegetables, and avoid prepackaged vegetables with sauces and cheese.

Microwave safety tips for kids

There are several ways parents can help keep their children safe when using a microwave, including:

  • Using only microwave-safe cookware and containers.
  • Reminding children to follow the microwave instructions on the package.
  • Showing children how to use a food thermometer to check the temperature in several different spots of the food. For reheated foods, make sure the temperature is 165 degrees to avoid foodborne illness.
  • Teaching children to use potholders when removing anything from the microwave.
  • Instructing older children to stir food well or let it stand for two minutes before tasting it so the heat can distribute evenly.
  • Demonstrating how to safely open a container or popcorn bag so the steam escapes away from their hands and face.
  • If defrosting food in a microwave oven, using the defrost setting or putting the microwave on 30 percent power.

If your child is too young to read or follow written food preparation directions or to read the microwave oven keypad, they are too young to use a microwave oven without supervision.


Joanna Cohen Joanna Cohen, MD, was an attending in the emergency department (ED) at Children's National. Her primary research interest includes bedside ultrasonography in the ED.

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