Play it Safe with Kids' Germy Toys This Cold and Flu Season
By Emmanuel Ashong, MD, Virtua Health Pediatrician
Medical Director, Osborn Family Health Center
If you have children, there’s likely toys aplenty around the house. Whether your child is into Legos or stuffed animals, video games or arts and crafts, there’s one constant—germs.
Your child can catch the cold or flu from close contact with a sick sibling or classmate, but he or she is just as likely to get sick from germs on their toys.
A recent study looked at how long a flu-like virus can survive on a plastic toy. At a humidity level typical of what’s found inside many homes and offices, the virus remained active for up to 10 hours. At a higher humidity level, the virus survived up to 24 hours.
Likewise, viruses that cause colds can survive for long periods on hard, nonporous surfaces, remaining infectious for about 24 days. The highly contagious norovirus—which inflames the intestinal lining leading to stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea—has been found to remain on surfaces and infect people for days or weeks.
Protect your family from illness
To reduce the spread of flu, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the following two-step procedure for cleaning frequently touched objects like plastic toys:
- Wash with soap and water. This step removes many germs.
- Disinfect to kill any germs left behind. Use a store-bought disinfectant and follow the product instructions. Or, make your own disinfectant solution by adding one tablespoon of household bleach to one quart of water. Apply the homemade solution with a cloth, let it stand for three to five minutes, and then rinse it off with water.
In addition to disinfecting toys and other commonly touched items, follow these steps to help keep cold and flu out of your home:
- Wash your hands with soap and water frequently. Rub your hands together to make a lather and scrub well, being sure to get the back of your hands and under fingernails. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
- Don't touch your eyes, nose or mouth with your hands.
- Cough or sneeze into a tissue, then throw it away.
Know where to go when you get sick
Virtua offers high-quality urgent care at 8 convenient locations throughout South Jersey, so you can get the care you need when you need it. We treat minor illness like colds, flu and stomach virus, and minor injuries like sprains, strains and small cuts – stitches provided.
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Updated December 2, 2019