Did you know people are finding mould in kids' toys; sippy cups, teething toys and rubby duckies- scary, right?
Recent headlines in the news of parents discovering black mould after breaking apart the spout on the underside of the lid of their TommeeTippee cups is real! Who would of thought there would be recalls of GoGo Squeeze Applesauce due to mould growth or CapriSun would struggle with mould in its products. It certainly heralds an new era of consumers uncovering bio-hazards right in their home, potentially in kids mouths!
So how would you even know if you have mould in your kids toys?
While sometimes it's obvious on the surface often the mould is lurking hidden inside the toy. An easy check is by squeezing bath toys - if you notice a stream of watery, black gunk come out of the little hole at the bottom, that's all the evidence you need that there is mould!
For products with parts that you can't see inside, such as sippy cup valves, or bath toys without holes that have developed small cracks through which water can enter, the only way to really tell is by breaking them apart.
While Mould is gross, one may argue, is it unsafe?
After all, the mother-of-all-scientific discoveries penicillin grew from mould. The good news is that mould, while never welcomed, is generally not dangerous. Any mould inadvertently ingested, like if you accidentally give your child a piece of mouldy bread 😳 will be easily disposed of by the body through the digestive process.
However, the real danger is when a child is allergic to mould. That's when the mould spores in the air can cause allergic reactions such as runny nose, blocked nose, sneezing, itchy eyes, cough and other uncomfortable allergic skin reactions.
Obviously many of these symptoms are common in the everyday-world-of-raising-kids; so it's not surprising that air allergy symptoms are chronically misdiagnosed or become chronic.
(I mean, who would even have thought little Johnny's asthma and constant runny nose think was the rubber duckies fault?!?)
How does Mould allergy affect health.
Firstly mould is a type of airborne allergen; the mould spores of indoor and outdoor moulds can cause allergic rhinitis, sinusitis, bronchitis as well as asthma for those allergic.
Air allergies are common; with 1 in 5 people suffering allergic rhinitis and 1 in 10 with asthma. And the bad news......allergies are rising globally so don't be surprised if you hear a lot more about air allergies, chronic air-related diseases and strategies for improving indoor air quality in home and workplace.
Why, because your indoor air quality is 5 times more polluted with concentrated allergens than outdoor air. Exactly why my allergy team spends so much time counselling patients on the importance of increasing their attention to the indoor air quality of their home (and workplace); ventilation, humidity, sunlight, clutter, damp, air flow - often undervalued but elemental basics vital for healthy living.
⚠️ Time to get air focused
World Allergy Organisation dedicated 2016's World Allergy Week to raising awareness about air allergies and the predicted rise of asthma and allergic rhinitis globally. This means that while 1 in 5 of us already have air allergies ... this is expected to grow. Air pollution and climate change being part to blame.
Obviously, children with suspected chronic allergy symptoms should see a doctor for a specialist air allergy assessment. According to ASCIA, the gold standard method to diagnose a suspected mould, dust mite or pollen allergy is allergy skin prick testing. For those with chronic mould allergy symptoms, immunotherapy against the mould is the most curative option outside of medications to control symptoms but first line treatment is always to reduce your environmental exposure and this means a good clean up of your home environment and bath toys are now considered one of those hazardous spaces!
Quick Tips on how to break the mould
While most of us reach for bleach to clean indoor mould, some more naturally effective solutions can do a great job!
Tip 1: A Classic Essential Home Mould spray alternative is to add 2 teaspoons of Tea tree oil in a spray bottle with 2 cups of water and shake before use. Or try ever-reliable vinegar. An 80% white fermented vinegar solution. Apply the mixture to area and leave for at least 20 minutes then lightly sponge with clean water.
If You find Mould in your Kids' Products it's not always easy to clean adequately so replacement is often the best solution. But if you want my best advice for mould prevention toy tips the best thing is to stop water getting into toys.
Tip 2: Try plugging bath toys with a dab of hot glue so that water can't get trapped inside, the breeding ground for mould. Then you must keep them clean by periodically boiling them, try washing them in a Classic Bleach-Bath water mixture or just run them in the dishwasher. For a naturally effective solution try alternatively soaking them in an Essential Eucalyptus+Tea tree-Bath water mixture.
Mould loves humidity so ensuring toys are in a low humidity environment is the most important tip for reducing mould in the home and why it's super important to keep toys bath dry after use by allowing the toys to thoroughly air dry after cleaning.
Or maybe just ditch the bath toys, altogether?
About the author
Dr Suzie is a General Practitioner and co-founder of Australian Allergy Centre and collective.care Allergy and ENT clinics at Bella Vista, Sydney - Australia's first GP-shared care model for specialist health care. 1300 344 325.