Stuffed Toys are Dust Mite Collectors
As a child, I had lots of stuffed animals. I recall one heartbreaking episode with my beloved Big Bird doll, a big yellow fluffy thing that was the same size as I was (I was about three then). Big Bird had plastic parts -- his feet and beak in particular -- and there was no way to wash him, de-dust him, and make him allergen free for me. And he was making me sneeze and wheeze. We had to throw him away because he was making me allergic
I recall the exact moment we took him to the trash compactor and, to add insult to injury, in an apartment building during these years, throwing away an item meant incinerating it! Many of my childhood dolls went the way of the incinerator because they couldn't be cleaned. For an allergic and asthmatic child, more dust meant trouble, especially when you wanted to snuggle with something that was making you sick.
Asthma and Allergy Friendly Toys
Flash forward to now and the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America in partnership with the Asthma and Allergy Friendly certification program has created a line of products including some snugglies that EXCEED your regular allergen standards for plush toys.
Excerpted from the press release: "The asthma & allergy friendlyTM Certification Mark indicates that a product has been scientifically tested and proven more suitable for people with asthma and related allergic sensitivities... Toys must firstly comply with national safety legislation for style and age range in the countries where they are sold... ASL then subjects the toys to further material tests to ensure that the toys do not have properties that are likely to irritate both asthma and allergy symptoms in susceptible people... Allergens accumulating within the toy must be removable by laundering in a washing machine."
What you end up with is a cuddly toy that won't make your eyes tear, or exacerbate your asthma symptoms. A child can love these toys freely without having to discard them when they get too old and dusty!
"Hypoallergenic" doesn't mean allergy free
"Why can't I just buy "hypoallergenic" toys? Aren't they good enough?" I hear you asking. Would you be surprised to know that the term "hypoallergenic" is not a medical term?
According to the Food and Drug Administration, in 1978 in relation to cosmetics companies' claims of hypoallergenicity: "There are no Federal standards or definitions that govern the use of the term "hypoallergenic."... The term means whatever a particular company wants it to mean. Manufacturers ... are not required to submit substantiation of their hypoallergenicity claims to FDA. .... The term "hypoallergenic" may have considerable market value in promoting cosmetic products to consumers on a retail basis, but dermatologists say it has very little meaning."
The bottom line: "The word was invented by advertisers who used it in a cosmetics campaign in 1953."
So buying a doll that claims it's safe for children with allergies isn't enough.
Life Without Limits
For a young child with allergies and asthma, a life without limits may include stuffed animals that are truly certified to withstand repeated washing and to maintain a dust-free existence. Thus, they won't have to be thrown away.
For both a child and an adult with allergies and asthma, living a life without limits includes preventing allergic triggers as much as possible. One's own home is often the source of many allergic triggers. By reducing the allergic content, one can enjoy life, symptom-free.
For myself, I work hard to maintain a low-allergen household. I buy, consume or use the least allergenic consumer items I can find. This may include vacuum cleaners, bedding, rugs, detergents, cleaning supplies and air filters; whatever I can get my hands on to reduce allergens in my home and my direct surroundings. I'm very excited about the Asthma and Allergy Friendly certification program in how extensive it is, how far beyond regular standards they go and how clear their instruction are.
Having to incinerate my dusty Big Bird taught me an early lesson: the more dust-free, the better for this allergic girl. Basically, my entire home is washable. The wood floors are washed weekly in Murphy's Oil. I have couches that have washable slipcovers. The duvet and duvet cover get washed in hot water annually as do sheets and mattress covers. I can wipe down all the surfaces. I don't have any dust-collecting trinkets. I use the least toxic home cleaning products on the market: vinegar, lemons and hot water when possible (otherwise, I have made the switch to natural cleaning products such as Seventh Generation and Ecover). I wash out my humidifier weekly during the winter, and wipe down the fans in the summer. I work hard to maintain a home filled with light and air and as little dust, mold and irritants as possible.