A child health expert, Dr. Abdurrazzaq Alege, has cautioned parents against buying furry toys and teddy bears for their children, noting that they can cause serious health problems and even death for babies, especially infants.
According to the Consultant Paediatrician, babies exposed to fur are at risk of developing allergies, cough, suffocation, diarrhoea, and in some instances asthma.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with PUNCH HealthWise, Alege who works with the Nephrology Division, Federal Medical Centre, Katsina State, stated that while toys are good for children, mothers should consider keeping furry toys away from babies because of the negative health problems they can cause.
The expert urged mothers to consider plastic toys as an alternative to teddy bears. He noted that important factors to consider before buying furry toys for children should include the size of the teddy bear when compared to the age and size of the child, the type of fur used in making it, and how clean the bear is.
“Size is very important because if you have an infant, that is a child less than one year, playing with a big teddy bear is dangerous. The teddy can suffocate the child.
“As regards type, if it is the one whose fur falls off easily, probably as a result of expiry or the fact that the kind of fur used is not of good quality and has particles falling off, so many things can happen.”
According to him, certain allergies are genetic, and even if the parents are unaware of their allergies, it does not mean the child cannot express worse forms of such allergies.
The expert added,
“If you have a child that has an intrinsic problem in terms of allergy if the parents are not careful and they are unaware of the kind of allergic responses of the child, that child may react to some of these particles that could enter the airway.
“The child will have respiratory difficulties or would start to cough or would have symptoms that would appear like they are having asthma. It is just because of the wool.”
Alege said if a teddy bear is not taken care of, dust is likely to gather on it, which can trigger an allergic reaction in a child. He added,
“Dust can be a health problem in so many ways. It can cause an allergic reaction in terms of entering the airway.
“At the same time, if you have a toy that is not regularly cleaned, children at that age put everything in their mouth, they kiss and bite it. And in doing this, if the toy is dirty, it will harbour harmful organisms, bacteria, viruses, fungi and can cause so many illnesses in the child.”
The paediatrician explained that when a baby inhales fur, the child will have asthmatic symptoms and if the child ingests the material harbouring organisms, the common symptom the child will present is diarrhea disease. He stated:
“This includes passing watery stool, frequent bowel motions, as well as vomiting. It could be as simple as the child just running a fever and you are wondering if it is malaria.
“In an older child, that is a child that can talk, the child will be complaining of stomach pain, and crying from discomfort.”
According to Allege, children with a history of allergies, who are constantly exposed to fur, could also develop asthma later.
He added that even those without an allergic history but are constantly exposed to fur are at risk of developing allergies such as ‘acquired asthma.’
He advised mothers to acquire plastic toys for their infants. The specialist added:
“There is no reason why they should be playing with teddy bears. If you have an older child, a toddler that can vocalise, at this age they can play with animate toys and since they can walk about, they can easily carry or back the teddy bear, but not one that will be too big for them.”
Also, the paediatrician stressed that mothers should keep toys with detachable furs away from children. He stated further,
“Some of these toys that you wear the fur on them, if one is not careful, the older children may remove the fur and wear it on themselves.
“If they are not monitored, because some of these overalls may not have any holes, they can suffocate while wearing it. So, we have to be careful about the kinds of toys we have around children.
“Also, any parent that is aware that they have any form of allergies should avoid fur-containing toys generally for all their children regardless of their age.”
According to the American Academy of Paediatrics, stuffed animals fall under the category of dangerous items that new parents and caregivers should never place near a sleeping baby in a crib or carriage.
Other items in this category include pillow-like toys, blankets, quilts, crib bumpers, and other bedding.
The AAP explained that these items can increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome and death by suffocation or strangulation.
Recall that in 2018, a mother, Connie Rose, lost her baby due to suffocation from a teddy bear. In a Facebook post by her, she said,
“On the 6th March 8.01 am 2018, my life changed. I woke up to get my oldest child ready for school only to find out that my youngest baby had passed away.
I have been blaming myself as she passed away due to suffocation as I had packed down the side of her bed with teddies and placed a big one on top of the smaller teddy to stop her from falling down the side of her bed, and she did exactly that but as it was all teddy bears she went under the massive teddy and fell asleep with the angels.
All I think about now is what if I just left it empty, she would still be here maybe with just a small bump on her head. It’s all what-ifs now. But I want every parent to see and be aware of this. Let them fall don’t try to stuff small places up with soft things just leave it empty.
She had a bed guard at one side and the smallest gap from her wall to her bed and that’s where I had put all her teddy’s my biggest regret in life.
Please move everything off your kids’ bed and away from the sides.”