IF you're a parent, then you'll know just how important that favourite cuddly toy really is to your little one.
They can help soothe kids and even help them get off to sleep – but one expert has warned that their favourite bunny or bear could pose a deadly threat.
Consultant paediatrician specialising in allergies at the University of Dundee, Steve Turner told The Sun failing to properly clean your kids' toys clean can increase the risk of killer asthma attacks and nasty allergies.
And it's the fact that your child is inseparable from teddy, that makes it a real health risk, he warned.
He highlighted previous research by researchers in New Zealand at Otago University.
Scientists found that more than half of all soft toys they tested contained potentially harmful levels of house dust mites (HDMs), which can aggravate hay fever, eczema or asthma.
The particular concern is that they are often held close to the airways while a child is sleeping, increasing the risk of HDM-related asthma.
Dr Turner told The Sun, the only way to reduce the risk is to ensure you're cleaning cuddly toys regularly, and properly.
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 tested 36 soft toys – comparing various 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.
Speaking to The Sun, another expert warned that our homes can never be completely free or dust and mites.
Eluned Hughes, head of health advice at Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation, said: "Dust mites, which live in dust and can be found on cuddly toys, can cause sensitivity in people with asthma.
"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.
"But ensuring your child takes their preventer medicine every day as prescribed and uses an asthma action plan can help cut the risk of dust mites triggering asthma symptoms.
"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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