As a parent, the hard work to keep your little bundle of joy out of harm's way never stops. And it does not get easier when you learn dangers can lurk where you least expect them.
Eden Strong was horrified when her two-year-old son Baylor nearly lost his vision after taking a bath. She had been careful to keep his bath toys clean, nevertheless, the little boy got a serious bacterial infection.
Baylor's Terrifying Incident
Strong told that her nanny gave Baylor a bath when the toddler mistakenly squirted some water into his eyes while playing with a bath toy.
Shortly after the incident, his eye turned pink.
Strong knew that bath toys posed a danger since she had seen videos online showing people opening them up to expose a moldy inside.
"I knew water could get trapped in tub toys, particularly the rubber ones designed to squirt water," she explained.
"So I squeezed them out after each bath, cleaned them out every few weeks with a bleach water solution, and regularly held them up to the light to look for mold."
Unfortunately, the caring mother's actions had not been enough to prevent the mold. Regular cleaning is not always enough to prevent bacteria and they are sometimes invisible to the naked eye.
The doctor informed the family that Baylor had developed pinkeye, however, after a while it became apparent the toddler's condition was worse.
"Now his eye was actually coming out from between his eyelids and I just remember screaming at my husband to call 911 or to get the car," the distressed mother said.
The doctor put Baylor through a CT scan which revealed that he had severe cellulitis.
"That could spread to his brain. And I just never would have thought that a bathtub toy could have done something like this."
Luckily, Baylor received help in time and made a full recovery.
Bath Toys And Mold
Microbiologist Frederik Hammes from the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology explained that there has been very little research in the area.
He wished to make a change and led a team of researchers who collected bath toys from five different homes. They then studied the insides of the toys and found high levels of bacteria and mold.
On average, 9.5 million cells of bacteria and fungi grew per square centimeter and in some cases, it was up to twenty million cells.
Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a bacterium known to cause infection in people with weaker immune systems. Most of the toys tested contained this organism.
"There is likely to be an accumulation of fungi and bacteria inside of bath toys. And some of these bacterial and fungal species are associated with human infections," Hammes said.
Mold spores thrive in humid and poorly-ventilated places so a hollow toy stored in the bathroom is the ideal environment for their growth.
However, Hammers wishes to calm worried parents. The case of Baylor's infection is extremely rare.
A healthy person hardly ever gets infected by mold or bacteria from a bath toy.
The medical director for epidemiology and infection prevention at the University of California Susan Huang agrees with Hammers.
"Healthy children have plenty of good immune function that allows them to breathe mold spores in and handle it, even eat some of it by accident. Nothing really happens – other than people being somewhat disgusted," she explained.
Children with a weaker immune system due to chronic lung or sinus infections, immune defects, cancer, or uncontrolled diabetes pose a greater risk to get infected.
Regularly breathing in spores from mold is never healthy for children as it can trigger allergies or asthma.
How To Protect Your Children
If you feel insecure about bath toys, cut the hole to a larger size that will make cleaning easy. Always make sure everything in your bathroom has the chance to dry so textiles and other items do not stay permanently humid.
However, remember that it is impossible to create a sterile environment around us as there will always be bacteria. Luckily, most of them are harmless.
If you suspect your bath toys might have mold inside them you can soak the toys in bleach mixed with water overnight and clean them thoroughly afterward.
Vinegar mixed with water can also be used for removing mold. Store the toys on a rack or a similar place that allows them to dry out to prevent the mold from coming back.