Stuffed toys are generally considered safe for play since they are soft, non-breakable and lightweight. When used improperly, stuffed toys present hidden dangers that can be hazardous to your child's health, and even fatal. Avoid the bad effects of stuffed toys by making sure your child's stuffed toy collection only includes toys designed for her age range, and that they are frequently washed and well-organized.
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
Infants who are younger than 12 months face a greater risk of succumbing to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) when stuffed toys are placed in their cribs during nap or bed times. Although the exact causes of SIDS are unknown, researchers theorize that stuffed toys and other soft items may cause carbon dioxide to pool in the infant's sleep area and interfere with his breathing, according to the Nemours Foundation's KidsHealth website.
Stuffed toys with plastic eyes and noses or buttons present a choking hazard for children three years of age and under. Toy manufacturers are required to use only stitching and printing to craft features in stuffed toys marketed for use by young children. Since age requirement labels are not always considered, and second-hand toys may include warnings that are outdated, some young children play with hazardous stuffed toys. All stuffed toys should be checked regularly for ripped seams and possible dislocation of sewn-on parts like tails or ears, as these present choking hazards for young children, even when the toy is age-appropriate.
Favored stuffed toys that are not washed frequently enough can become havens for germs and bacteria. If your child typically brings her stuffed toys out of the house and to playgrounds, school, friends' houses or stores, the toys are exposed to pathogens via the air and any hard surfaces with which they come in contact. Some illnesses do not build their host's immune system, and if your child is sleeping with stuffed toys while he is sick, he could become re-infected when he sleeps with the same toy after getting well. Stuffed toys that are slept with and/or removed from the home should be thoroughly washed in hot water at least once per week.
Dust Mites, Mold and Allergies
Dust mites and mold spores tend to settle on stuffed toys. When allergens are not regularly checked for, they can multiply and cause serious illness for your child and other family members. Allergy attack symptoms include difficulty breathing, coughing, sneezing, sinus infections and dizziness. Stuffed toys should be cleaned regularly or stored in air-tight, waterproof containers. Avoid keeping a large number of stuffed toys in your child's room, since too many hospitable surfaces can cause over-population of dust mites. Avoid excess moisture in your child's room, since mold grows in a damp environment. Use a dehumidifier if necessary to combat mold outbreaks. If you notice mold on your child's stuffed toys, it is best to throw them away since mold can be difficult to thoroughly remove from soft surfaces.