The BBC Article
I recently read an article on the BBC website titled “Soft Toys Can Spread Disease”. The article relates to the recommendation by Dr Dagmar Zeuner (director of public health for NHS Hammersmith and Fulham) that:
“We do not advocate providing communal soft toys in clinical waiting areas as they give serious diseases such as measles an easy route to spread from one child to another.”
My initial thoughts were that this BBC article was trying to latch onto another example of social paranoia that was written purely for the catchy headline and inevitable panic it will cause. But when I started reading the article it made me think… soft toys in communal hospital areas? Where countless infected children may play with the soft toys and spread bacteria? It makes sense, when you think about it, that soft toys should not be the first choice for child entertainment in a hospital waiting room? Soft toys are essentially a giant sponge! If I was going to invent something which could be used to capture bacteria and transport them around, it would probably look something like a soft toy!
“Infection control in ambulatory care” by Candace Friedman
So with this in mind I dug a little deeper… I wanted to know if there was any real validity in the statements made on the BBC article. I started searching for information relating to the risks of soft toys and infections and came across this book extract on Google Books from “Infection control in ambulatory care” by Candace Friedman:
There are many concerns about the risk of cross infection from toys. Although actual incidence of disease transmission directly links to toys has been rare, it is known that microorganisms can survive for extended periods of time on environmental surfaces. After a busy morning in a physicians office, one study found that toys appeared unclean, that 10% were contaminated with pathogens, and that bacteria were cultured more frequently from soft toys than from hard toys.
So it would appear that soft toys are indeed the perfect carrier for bacteria! But why not keep toys in clean state? Surely that would make them safe for out kiddies to enjoy? The above quote goes on to say:
Another found higher contamination levels on soft toys, that neither machine washing and drying nor autoclaving were adequate to totally reduce microorganisms on soft toys and that soft toys in waiting rooms became contaminated much more quickly than hard toys.
There are many experts believe that in order to avoid allergies developing and to build up immunity; children and babies actually need to be exposed to some dirt and germs. But it stands to reason that toys in communal medical waiting room areas should be avoided by your children. They are the perfect breeding ground and transporter for infection.
The department of Health have issued guidance which covers flu pandemics, which advises that “soft toys and magazines should be removed from waiting rooms”. However, the decision on whether toys are removed rests with the individual NHS organisations. So here are a few tips which I picked up whilst doing my research:
1 Bring your own child’s toys to waiting room areas such as hospitals, schools, dentists, hair dressers etc.
2. Wipe down all toys which your child might want to play with using effective anti bacterial wipes.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask whether toys have been adequately disinfected.