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Warning over infection risk from children's toys

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Viruses can survive on toys long enough to potentially expose children to infections like influenza and coronaviruses, a small study has shown.

As a result, the US authors of the study suggested that health and care facilities where toys were provided for patients should ensure they were included in infection control policies.

“People don’t really think about getting viruses from inanimate objects”

Richard Bearden

Researchers at Georgia State University found they could still retrieve virus particles from a squeaky toy up to 24 hours after it had been contaminated.

They used this type of virus because it is similar in structure to some respiratory viruses, like influenza, that can spread from hand-to-mucus-membrane contact.

The study authors said previous studies had suggested that shared toys in nurseries, GP surgeries and homes had been contaminated with viruses and may be the source of viral disease outbreaks.

In their study, the researchers investigated the survival of a virus on pieces of a plastic toy frog over a 24-hour period and at different levels of humidity.

They said they could still retrieve virus particles from up to 10 hours at 40% humidity – typical of indoor conditions. At a higher level of humidity, 60%, they found that the viruses survived for up to 24 hours.

Lead study author Richard Bearden said: “People don’t really think about getting viruses from inanimate objects. They think about getting them from other people.

“Children are vulnerable to contracting infectious disease because they put their hands and foreign objects in their mouths, and their immune systems aren’t fully developed,” he said.

He added: “I think the main focus should be for parents, daycare facilities, doctor’s offices and other places where children share toys to implement some type of strategy for decontamination to make sure those toys aren’t a reservoir for disease.”

Although the Care Quality Commission does not have specific guidance on keeping toys clean, it has said it does expect GP practices to follow national guidance and maintain a clean and appropriate environment to prevent the control of infections.

The study findings were published in the Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal.

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Readers' comments (2)

  • Most toys are washable & able to go in the dryer overnight. Many plastics need a good wash in soapy water and a few hours in the fridge. That cuts down a lot of infection in children

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  • Also there are wipes manufactured specifically for toys that are not washable.

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