Why Your Child’s Favorite Toy or Stuffed Animal Could Get Them Sick Again

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Were you aware your child’s teddy bear can trigger the flu, a virus or even food poisoning? It’s true, 80 percent of stuffed animals or other cuddly toys carry germs and bacteria,  according to research conducted by Dettol.  In fact, one in four of these toys tested positive for feces contamination. So, although your child may consider their teddy bear their best friend that makes them happy, it could be posing a health threat to your child.

Reasons Why Your Child’s Favorite Toy or Stuffed Animal Could Get them Sick Again

To feel better, sick kids tend to cling to their favorite stuffed toys. Although stuffed animals help to make your child feel more comfortable and safer, the bacteria and germs your sick child transfers to their stuffed animal aren’t very comforting.

Reasons may include:

  • Germs and bacteria get on the stuffed toy.
  • Kids are notorious for dropping their toys and stuffed play animals on the ground.
  • Stuffed animals can trigger the reinfection of a cold, flu or other illness.
  • Germs stay on surfaces for a couple of days.
  • Daycare centers pose a big risk to your child’s stuffed toy coming home infected.

For instance, flu germs alone may live on some surfaces for up to 48 hours, reports The New York Times, which increase your child’s risk of reinfection.

Research also shows 90 percent of kids drop their precious toys on the ground, allowing them to pick up germs and dirt.

Streptococcus pyogenes, the bacteria that causes skin infections and strep throat, and Streptococcus pneumoniae, the biggest cause of respiratory tract and ear infections in kids, both linger on toys many hours after parents clean them, according to a journal Infection and Immunity published study.

In another study, researchers found in daycare centers, when tested for Streptococcus pneumoniae, four out of five stuffed animals came up positive.

How Parents Can Practice Prevention to Keep This from Happening

You can protect your child from being reinfected with a cold or another sickness by:

  • Keeping a clean environment.
  • Keeping affected toys away from your children until they recover.
  • Washing your child’s stuffed animals.

Tips for Washing Your Child’s Toy Optimally

You can wash most stuffed animals in the washing machine, however, it can damage them, and so you’ll want to keep that in mind. But, machine washing is the best solution to keeping your child’s teddy bear and other toys clean.

During the cold and flu season, be sure you wash your child’s stuffed animals on a weekly basis, particularly if your child is sick or recovering from an illness. There’s steps to wash stuffed toys with as little damage as possible.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Remove any accessories or clothing on their stuffed animal. For large toys that can’t fit in your washing machine, you’ll need to buy a seam ripper that opens the stuffed toy along its seam so you can remove the stuffing.
  2. Use a hot water cycle.
  3. After you wash the toys, take them out of the washer and put them in the dryer for 30 minutes on hot.
  4. After these 30 minutes, take the toys out and allow them to finish drying on a towel.

Keep in mind that not all toys may be machine washed, so you may have to surface clean your child’s stuffed friend instead.  For this, you’ll want to:

  1. Use warm water and a mild detergent and scrub the exterior of the stuffed animal thoroughly. Be sure you get into the nooks and crannies.
  2. Rinse the toy off with plain water to eliminate any detergent residue that may be lingering.
  3. Place the animal in the sun to dry.  
  4. Once dried by the sun, to sanitize the toy, place it in a plastic freezer bag and pop them in the freezer where they’ll sit for a minimum of 72 hours.

If your child regularly sleeps with their favorite stuffed friend, germs from their bed and dust mites can latch onto it. You may want to secure all pillows and your child’s mattresses in dust-mite-proof covers to reduce bedroom allergens.

For children with asthma or allergies, if they have a stuffed animal that you can’t machine wash, it poses a risk to their health. Therefore, be sure you read all care labels before buying any stuffed toys to see if it’s simple enough to clean them. This will save you potential problems later on.

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