Nothing is more comforting to a sick child than snuggling up on the couch with blanket and a favorite teddy bear. But what’s not so comforting is when teddy bear brings the flu virus to preschool or daycare the next day.
That’s exactly what teddy bears can do, says a study from Vanderbilt University.
The study focused on hospitals that allow familiar, comfort-giving teddy bears to accompany children during visits, specifically surgeries. Researchers wanted to know if the toys unintentionally contribute to surgical-site infections (SSI).
Indeed, stuffed animals and other “comfort” items, all showed bacterial growth when tested. And viruses proved just as invasive, surviving up to 24 hours on the surface of toys in another study.
Stuffed Toys Miss Out On Personalized Attention
Raggedy stuffed bears keep watch over our toddlers during cold and flu season’s runny noses and puking tummies. But rarely do they get the follow up care they need.
As studies have shown, 3 out of 4 teddy bears don’t get washed after a child is sick. Even worse, 1 of 5 bears have never been washed at all. Plastic and wooden toys have a better chance at getting washed, or at least cleaned with disinfectant wipes.
What can parents do?
Parents can send stuffed toys through the laundry. A single run through a laundry wash/dry cycle, followed by 24 hours in a sealed bag when completely dry, effectively sterilized 79 percent of the stuffed animals tested. In other tests, machine washing plush toys using anti-bacterial laundry soap killed 99.9% of bacteria. Authors recommend allowing toys to dry thoroughly to avoid mold growth.
Ways to Limit the Spread of Germs during Cold and Flu Season
Avoid letting your kids play with plush toys at daycares, doctors’ offices, and church nurseries.
Use soft blankets as an alternative to a stuffed toy. They can be washed more easily between uses.
Limit playdates and sleepovers during cold and flu season.
Use washable area rugs in place of, or on top of, carpets. Wash sheets more frequently.
Wash stuffed animals weekly.