Germs can take refuge in toys

Germs can take refuge in toys

Your preschooler is sick — again. It could be other kids spreading germs through close contact, but toys could also be the culprit. A new study from Georgia State University found that germs can survive on toys for up to 24 hours.

Researchers looked at enveloped (en-VELL-upped’) viruses, such as the flu, severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, and Middle East respiratory syndrome, known as MERS. Enveloped viruses have protective outer layers that help them survive.

The study tested their ability to remain on the surface of a toy in 60 percent humidity and 40 percent humidity. The latter is typical of most indoor environments. After two hours at 60 percent humidity, 1 percent of the virus remained, and just 0.01 percent of the virus lingered at 40 percent humidity. That sounds promising, but it doesn’t take much for viruses to do bad things: After 10 hours there was still enough of the virus left to make kids sick.

So what’s a busy parent to do? When you’re hunting for a day care center, look for signs that instruct employees to wash hands in between handling different children. A bottle of hand sanitizer in every room is a good thing. As for toys, they should be cleaned every time after a child puts one in his or her mouth, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Most wooden and plastic toys can be cleaned with hot soapy water, and you can even microwave wooden toys for about 30 seconds to ensure bacteria is killed. Plush toys can be washed like clothes — just be sure they don’t take too long to dry so mold doesn’t grow. And look out for scratches in plastic toys, which can create space for bacteria. Clean toys make for healthier kids!

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