Devilish Ducks | Can Your Kids’ Bath Toys Make Them Sick?

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2 min read

baby bathing plastic duck

Most of us will use a variety of bribery to get our kids clean. The most common? Those cute little squeeze toys. Ducks, Hong Kong taxis, crocodiles – you can fill them up with water and squirt each other, all the while covertly washing off the day's dirt. 


But these innocent little ducks have a dark side. Slice them open and you'll find a whole host of microbial growth inside. We looked at the latest research to see what's inside those cute little ducks, why it matters and how to prevent it.


Are my bath toys gross inside?

Have they been in the bath yet? Almost definitely. 


A 2018 research project from Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology EAWAG found that bath toys exposed to 11 weeks of regular bath use had between 5 million and 75 million cells per square centimeter on the inside. Researchers found fungal species in almost 60% of the toys and potentially pathogenic bacteria in 80% of the toys – including some that were highly antibiotic-resistant.


Why are bath toys getting so dirty?

Bath toys, especially hollow 'squeeze toys' with small openings, rarely dry out; they are being soaked in dirty bath water containing human body fluids, soap and bacteria; and they're usually kept in warm, humid bathrooms. You have the perfect conditions for bacteria and fungi to grow. 


It also has to do with the materials used to make a lot of the squeeze bath toys. Most of the toys we use in the bath are made of flexible plastic material that leaks organic carbon. Researchers in this study have suggested working with manufacturers to change the regulation for such toys.


Are bath toys harmful?

Where do kids most often want to be squirted? Their faces, of course! According to Immunologist & Allergist Dr. Adrian Wu 鄔揚源醫生, the fungi and bacteria could lead to ear, gastrointestinal, or eye infections, but some studies have shown that exposure to bacterial products during early childhood could protect the children from developing allergies and asthma. It's impossible to avoid bacteria and fungi altogether.


How can we prevent fungal and bacterial growth in bath toys?

We're not going to suggest taking bath toys away altogether, otherwise your children will never be clean again!

  • Make the switch to toys that dry out easily – cups with various sized and shaped holes in the bottom make for hours of fun splashing around. Let them dry before putting them away.
  • DO NOT use antibacterial wipes or cleaner on your toys. This encourages the growth of resistant bacteria. Regularly use a combination of white vinegar and water to wash them.
  • If you can't wean yourself off squeeze toys, squeeze all the water out of them and keep them in a well-ventilated area.

Dr. Adrian Wu 鄔揚源醫生 is a US board certified specialist in allergy and immunology currently in private practice. He is the director of the Centre for Allergy and Asthma Care, Hong Kong.

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This article was independently written by Healthy Matters and is not sponsored. It is informative only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be relied upon for specific medical advice.

Dr. Wu Young Yuen Adrian
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