If you are a parent, you will know how important a cuddly toy is to your child.
They are able to soothe children and help them sleep, but one expert warns that their favourite bear or bunny could pose a serious threat.
Steve Turner, a consultant paediatrician who specializes in allergies at University of Dundee said that failing to clean toys properly can lead to deadly asthma attacks and other severe allergies.
He also warned that the fact that your child lives with teddy is a health risk.
He highlighted previous ResearchBy researchers at Otago University in New Zealand
Scientists discovered that over half of all soft toys tested had harmful levels of house dust mites (HDMs). This can worsen hay fever and eczema.
One concern is that they may be too close to the child’s airways when they sleep, which can increase the risk of HDM-related asthma.
Central Recorder was told by Dr Turner that the best way to reduce risk is to make sure you clean cuddly toys properly and regularly.
He said: “The advice for parents is to either tumble dry for one hour, or freeze the soft toy overnight, and then wash it in a cold wash to remove any allergens.”
The Otago Uni scientists evaluated 36 soft toys and compared different cleaning methods.
They found freezing them for 16 hours at -15˚C resulted in a 95 per cent reduction of HDM, hot tumble drying for one hour reduced mites by 89 per cent, and soaking in an emulsion of eucalyptus oil and liquid detergent for one hour, then rinsing and drying, also resulted in a HDM reduction of 95 per cent.
“Washing and soaking with naturally antibacterial eucalyptus oil and detergent is very effective in not only reducing live mites, but also reducing house dust mite allergens, compared to freezing and tumble drying,” says study author associate professor, Dr Rob Siebers.
“Of the 12 toys studied, 10 showed no live mites at all after washing with eucalyptus oil and liquid detergent.”
Dr Siebers said all three methods are more effective than just washing toys, because water needs to be above 55˚C to kill HDMs, and this is usually too hot and damages the toys.
Central Recorder was warned by another expert that dust and mites can never be removed completely from our homes.
Eluned Hughes is the head of health advice for Asthma UK. She also works with the British Lung Foundation.
“Around two in five (44 per cent) children with asthma tell us that dust triggers their condition, causing them to experience symptoms such as itchy eyes, sneezing, or a runny nose.
“If your child has a soft toy that they sleep with, you can reduce the risk of dust triggering their asthma by washing it regularly at 60 degrees to kill dust mites, along with their bedding and covers.”
She added that soft toys that can’t be washed at 60 degrees can be put in the freezer for at least 12 hours before washing at the recommended temperature.
Eluned explained: “No one can ever be completely free of dust and dust mites at home, work or school.
It is possible to reduce the chance of your child developing asthma symptoms by making sure they take their prescribed preventive medicine as directed and using an asthma action plan.
“If your child is getting symptoms three or more times a week, then it’s time to book an appointment with their GP or asthma nurse to talk about the best ways to manage asthma triggers.”
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