Stuffed Animals, Dust Mites, and the Process

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I know I need to start washing DS’s stuffed animals, especially the ones he sleeps with. I searched your site for “stuffed animals” to see if you had already done up a post about how to do this, but I didn’t find it. Is there a link you’d recommend, or could I persuade you to put this somewhere as a “how-to”?I know it seems like something I should just figure out on my own – but I haven’t done it for the past few months because it seems just that extra bit difficult. I think they need to go in the freezer, is that before or after washing? –Andie

The stuffed animal problem kind of embodies all the frustration and confusion of raising a child with asthma. You’ve got this enduring symbol of childhood, the teddy bear, and then an asthma diagnosis suddenly turns it into a complication. An issue. And you discover there’s this whole washing/drying/freezing process you have to follow.

For toys.

Because stuffed animals are like petri dishes inside, their stuffing spawning the dust mites that will trigger asthma flares at night like nothing else. I’m sure there’s an asthma patient out there somewhere who doesn’t react to dust mites with nocturnal symptoms, but I’ve never met one. AG had horrible coughing spells in her sleep until we covered her mattress and pillow, but you can’t throw one of those hypoallergenic covers over a stuffed dog.

Hence, the process.

1. Limit Them
Can you have a child without stuffed animals? Probably, but it’s not likely. Someone, somewhere will buy one for Christmas after you beg them not to, and that one will inevitably become the favorite, the one you can’t exchange because your kid keeps the death grip on it at night and you really value your sleep. So forget about a stuffed-free childhood–just go easy on the number you allow. See the photo above? That’s the stuffed toy tub in my house. Clearly, I’ve let things get out of hand.

2. Wash and Dry Them
For the stuffed animals you do keep around, wash and dry them at least once a month. I throw the girls’ in a pillowcase first, too, to cut down on the wear-and-tear of frequent washing.

3. Then Freeze Them
After they dry, stick them in a plastic bag in the freezer. Some websites recommend for as long as 24 hours, and AG’s previous doctor recommended overnight. I compromise by freezing them for 24 hours once a month but also sticking them in the freezer overnight once a week as a kind of backup. My girls slept with security blankets rather than teddy bears, but if your kid cannot sleep without the beloved stuffed hippo (see: death grip) and 24 hours is therefore out of the question, I imagine you could pop it in the morning and take it out by bedtime.

Finally, you can check out the stuffed animal page at the AAFA Asthma & Allergy Certification Program. It lists toys with stuffings not “known to aggravate asthma.”

Thanks for the suggestion for this post, Andie.

91 responses to “Stuffed Animals, Dust Mites, and the Process”

  1. Blessedmomof4 says:

    Funny! I was just “bribing” our three girls two days ago……If you can each give away 10 stuffed animals a piece…….we will buy you each ONE webkin! Since our dd wasnt diagnosed with Asthma until age 10, and I really didnt figure out stuffed animals were a problem until I read Amy’s Blog (Thanks! :) ……..so you can imagine how many stuffed animals we have accumulated!!!! One daughter has a round bucket like the one pictured above! And the other two have almost as many! I wised up with the baby bro. and he has almost none……. :) and he doesnt even play with the the one he has that was a gift (his sisters do!)……..I have a lot of washing to do now……ugg…….. or I think I will do some more bribing……just to get the number of animals down to a reasonable #…… time to get to work! :)

  2. Amy says:

    And the things multiply behind my back! Overnight, even. Luckily, we’re trying to move so the girls have yet another reason to pick out some for the donation box.

  3. AndieBeck says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you ! :) We have way too many stuffed animals too, but I’m going to start with the favoured 3 that often go to bed with my little guy. I’m not sure that Austin, Rudolph & Mark (the stuffed Kangaroo, Reindeer & Duck) will share my enthusiasm for your post … but it will be so much better for all of us :)

    Andie

  4. Amy says:

    My pleasure–and isn’t it funny which ones they pick to love? I mean, why a kangaroo, reindeer and duck, as opposed to a pig, monkey, and elephant? Kids are hilarious.

  5. Bj says:

    Thank you very much for your help. This is just the information I needed, to understand more about the causes of asthma for my 4 year old daughter.

  6. Amy says:

    Sure thing. I hope it helps.

  7. Kerri says:

    Hey all!
    Anybody check out the certified asthma & allergy friendly stuffed animals?

    http://www.asthmaandallergyfriendly.ca/toys_canada.html

    (The American site doesn’t give examples, but you can find the certification mark in the States, too).

    I have an certified asthma friendly pillow and comforter. I don’t know if they *help* per se, but they don’t make anything worse!

  8. Emily Wooton says:

    Are the stuffed animals burnable? My parents have said that they were going to take my stiffed animals way so that they could cut them yu and burn them due to allergies and asthma. Maybe you need to do that with your kids stuffies.

  9. I’ve been looking around for articles similar to this but never found one that actually was valuable such as this. Glad I found this place!

  10. a nurse told me to pop the stuffed animals in the dryer for 20 minutes of hot. I do this with stuffed, bedspread, blanket once a week.

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  12. Candy E. says:

    I just wanted to add that sometimes allergy symptoms can come from the dyes and materials used to make the stuffed animals, in which case all the washing and freezing in the world is not going to help. If you do all the steps to make them safer and your child is still having symptoms you might have a child allergic to the dyes used to make the stuffed animal, or the fabric used.
    I, myself had a teddy bear collection that I had collected for years, until I started having allergy symptoms, so I placed most of them behind a sealed display case, washed and froze the rest, but was still having symptoms. I was at my wits end until I finally just stored all of them.
    I thought I would be bear-free until I went to build a bear with my niece and saw the allergy friendly ones. I have had that little guy on my bed for a couple of years now….no reactions at all.

  13. Astride Chery says:

    Once I remove the stuff animal . He no longer cough.

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