Children at risk from unwashed toys and blankets

Photo: CORBIS
Photo: CORBIS

A leading hygiene expert has warned of the hidden dangers that could be lurking in children’s favourite companion, including MRSA.

It comes as a new survey shows parents in Scotland aren’t washing their children’s soft toys and comfort blankets often enough.

According to the survey commissioned by household cleaning experts, ACE, over a quarter (26%) of Scottish parents do not wash their child’s soft toys or comfort blankets on a regular basis: saying they would wait six months to clean them, or not wash them at all.

Dr Lisa Ackerley hygiene expert said: “It is shocking that parents wash their children’s comfort blankets or soft toys at a frequency of only once every six months or less.

“These items could become very dirty over time, and pick up all sorts of micro-organisms from the floor, wherever they are dropped. If there is a pet in the house, then the floor surface will become dirty from the pet’s paws, and if the pet has had an accident in the house, then faecal bacteria, some of which could be harmful could be picked up by the soft toys or blankets dropped on the floor.

“As children often chew their toys or blankets, it makes sense to wash them frequently, and certainly more than once a year! Dogs, cats and wild animals and pests can carry parasites and pathogens (harmful bacteria), which can be transferred to humans, so if they are collected on teddy and then transferred to a child’s mouth, this is not good news.”

Parents are understandably reluctant to wash their children’s soft toys or comfort blankets because the child may be distressed when they are taken away, but parents will be shocked to learn that their children’s comforters could harbour deadly micro-organisms.

Dr Lisa explains: “Other micro-organisms that could be picked up on teddies or comfort blankets could be Staphylococcus aureus from other members of the family; some strains of this can be anti-biotic resistant and whilst people tend to associate MRSA with hospitals, the bacteria can also be found in the community.”

To help reduce the hidden germs in your children’s soft toys and comfort blankets, Dr Lisa gives her expert tips:

- Washing blankets and soft toys regularly will reduce the risks of transfer of bacteria and other micro-organisms to young children, whose immune system may not be so advanced.

- To help destroy bacteria, if you can’t turn up the temperature to wash soft toys because it may destroy them, then you may need to use an anti-bacterial agent in the wash.

- Try to wash these items with a frequency dependent upon use – if they only stay in the child’s cot or bed, then the risks are lower than if they have been dragged round a petting farm – in which case wash as soon as you get home.

- If you have duplicate blankets, so much the better, as you can then rotate and clean weekly.