Cold rids teddies of asthma mites

21:20, Oct 17 2011

Frequent holidays at the "South Pole" are the best cure for teddies afflicted with asthma-inducing dust mites, researchers have confirmed.

A University of Otago, Wellington study – published in international journal Paediatric Allergy and Immunology – has found that house dust mites – which thrive in soft toys – can be killed by freezing, hot tumble-drying or dousing their furry hosts with eucalyptus oil and detergent.

House dust mites are a serious allergen for asthmatics and are also strongly linked to the development of asthma in childhood, but washing will only kill mites if the temperature of the water is higher than 55 degrees Celsius – too hot for favourite toys.

So the researchers tested three other methods on 36 soft toys: freezing them for at least 16 hours, hot tumble-drying them for an hour, and soaking them in a mix of eucalyptus oil and detergent for an hour followed by rinsing and drying. All three methods killed 89 to 95 per cent of house dust mites.

The study confirmed what health workers in Wellington have been suggesting parents do for years, asthma nurse educator Adie Riddell said.

"We tell people to send them to the South Pole: a holiday in the snow in a plastic bag."

Parents found that technique worked better than frequent washing or tumble-drying, which usually resulted in teddies losing their looks.

The research did not look at how quickly the mites re-colonised their hosts, however. Study co-author Associate Professor Rob Siebers said further studies would be useful to work out how often toys should be de-mited.

"Children frequently sleep with their favourite toys close to their airways."

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