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It’s only natural to see a baby sleeping soundly surrounded by his teddy bears and other cuddly toys, right? But what if that congestion and runny nose are coming from those very toys?
Teddy bears and soft toys are pretty much the first toys every baby is presented with. These cuddly toys go on to become a source of security to kids as they are growing. In fact, some kids refuse to go to bed without their teddy bears and this “friendship” may even extend to meal-time or travelling. As much as it seems harmless to let your child snuggle up to his soft toy as much as he likes, perhaps you should consider certain risks.
What’s the Harm in Sleeping with Soft Toys?
‘Parents had better not let their children sleep with their favourite soft toy’. This strong warning was giving by pulmonologists for one simple reason – children who had extended proximity to these furry toys had a bigger chance of developing rhinitis and other allergies.
Rhinitis makes the inside of a person’s nose swollen and feeling sore and is caused by an infection or allergic reaction. Rhinitis can be caused due to a number of factors like genetics, dust mites, exposure to tobacco and early exposure to pets (though there are conflicting studies on the same.
Who is at Risk?
Your child! While wide prevalence of rhinitis has been reported among children ages 3 – 15, babies are at an even higher risk of developing it. A Hyderabad study reported that 29 percent of kids suffered from inflammation in their noses from allergens. The source was narrowed down to our popular children’s gift – the teddy bear. What is alarming is that allergic rhinitis may even be what is leading to asthma in kids.
While it is already well-known that dust mites breed on the dead skin we shed on our pillows and sheets, teddy bears and soft toys also trap these dead skin cells and in turn trap the dust mites too. Because children are at a closer proximity to their soft toys, they breathe in these allergens through the course of the night, increasing the risk of rhinitis.
What is the Solution?
Washing your toys is one way to keep his beloved soft toys harmless. However, simply washing and drying them won’t do. Ensure you wash them well enough to kill the dust mites. This can be done as follows:
- If the soft toy is machine washable: Wash the soft toy in hot water every other week and dry them in the dryer on high heat for 45 mins or more.
- If the soft toy isn’t machine washable: Using mild detergent and warm water, wash and scrub the surface of the soft toy well. Let it dry in the sun before putting it in a freezer bag and into the freezer for 72 hours.
Other Things You Can Do to Keep Your Child’s Soft Toys Safe for Him Include
- Vaccum the toys once a week to keep them relatively cleaner
- Try buying allergy or asthma-friendly toys
- Check the washing labels to make the hassle of washing these toys easier
- Keep the soft toys stored if they aren’t used much
- Limit the amount of wooly soft toys your child has
Did You Know: There are two types of Rhinitis –
- Seasonal – Common during spring or fall season and are known as ‘hay fever’ and caused by pollen.
- Perennial – Allergies that can occur year round
How to Prevent Rhinitis in Children?
Because the risk of rhinitis only increases in countries like India where pollution levels are higher than before and industrial waste is also increasing, parents need to take many more precautions these days. In addition to washing your soft toys regularly, there are a few simple measures you can take to prevent rhinitis in children:
A study on the efficiency of breastfeeding in preventing rhinitis states that breastfeeding exclusively for the first 3 months reduces the risk of rhinitis in kids, regardless of a family history of the same.
2. Quit Smoking and Reduce Exposure to Tobacco
Even if you don’t smoke near your child, doctors state that third-hand smoke can still cause tobacco-related health problems in your child,, including rhinitis.
3. Reduce Exposure to Dust Mites
As simple as it sounds, dust mites aren’t as easy to stay clear of and there are quite a few measures you need to keep in mind, including washing your carpets, sheets and pillow cases regularly. While the dust mites on the bedding may not be of high risk as they are washed regularly, your crawling baby may ingest all the mites breeding on the carpets. Therefore, ensure the carpets are cleaned regularly.
4. Keep your Little One Safe from Pollutants
Avoid taking your child out during peak hours to keep him safe from the worst of the pollution. You can also use a face mask for him to breathe better and stay safe.
5. Keep your Home Clear of Pollutants
Invest in an air purifier to filter out any pollutants from the house. Also, make sure your home has plants that filter out the air. You can find a list of purifying plants here.
Change in weather conditions too are causes of allergic reactions in kids. The truth is that the risk is large either way. The best we can do is be well-informed and do all we can to keep those terrible dust-mites and pollution at bay. Perhaps its time for good ol’ teddy to take a much needed hot bath?