Plush Toy (Stuffed Animal)
“Teddy” may be your little one’s cuddliest pal but many plush toys are contact allergen-heavy. Topping the list are strong dyes, especially in toys with bright colors like this woeful turtle’s green, the purple of a certain singing dinosaur, and the bright red fur of a very popular muppet.
Less obvious could be mordants (metal-related chemicals added to synthetic textiles to help color bind to them better) and preservatives (as well as formaldehyde-releasing preservatives) which are sometimes added to fabrics to keep bright colors from fading quickly. Black or dark-colored toys (such as for a friendly penguin) could contain PPD. Stretchy parts may have rubber or latex and metal accessories could have nickel.
If not washed regularly, both the toy’s fabric and stuffing could become homes of dust mites, which can cause severe itching and other problems.
Kids who have coexisting allergies may find their contact dermatitis as well as their atopic dermatitis and related allergies such as asthma or allergic rhinitis triggered by “Snuggles.” Patch testing (in addition to prick and other allergy testing, as needed) is crucial to help guide parents more accurately. Other things that can help:
- Choose plush toys that say “allergy-friendly.”
- Select stuffed animals with soft, natural cotton or natural fabrics in white or pale colors. Even better, look for toys in unbleached, uncolored organic cotton.
- Knitted toys could be an option but again, choose paler colors and yarn without acrylates. As a rule, certified organic, pale or uncolored materials are your safest bet.
- Avoid toys with metal and stretchy parts.
- Wash “Lovey” weekly with your child’s bedding — choose an allergen-free laundry soap like Fawn & Launder or even one of our hair and body shampoos. If possible, let “Lovey” enjoy some “tumble time” in the dryer on high heat.
- If “Cuddles” is too delicate for machine washing, try hand washing … or let “Cuddles” adventure as an astronaut in a plastic bag overnight in the freezer (dust mites hate the cold). Another great option is to give the toy a “massage”: include “Cuddles” when you vacuum with your dust-free, dust mite-busting, deep-reaching vacuum. If you don’t have this type of vacuum, keep “Cuddles” away when the house is being vacuumed or dusted. Try these other tips for managing dust mite allergies.
If you have a history of sensitive skin…
…don’t guess! Random trial and error can cause more damage. Ask your dermatologist about a patch test.
To shop our selection of hypoallergenic products, visit vmvhypoallergenics.com. Need help? Ask us in the comments section below, or for more privacy (such as when asking us to customize recommendations for you based on your patch test results) contact us by email, or drop us a private message on Facebook.
- On the prevalence of skin allergies, see Skin Allergies Are More Common Than Ever.
- For the difference between irritant and allergic reactions, see It’s Complicated: Allergic Versus Irritant Reaction.
- For the difference between food, skin, and other types of reactions: see Skin & Food Allergies Are Not The Same Thing.
- On the differences between hypoallergenic, natural, and organic, check out Is Natural Hypoallergenic? and this video in our YouTube channel.
- To learn about the VH-Rating System and hypoallergenicity: What Is The Validated Hypoallergenic Rating System?
Regularly published reports on the most common allergens by the North American Contact Dermatitis Group and European Surveillance System on Contact Allergies (based on over 28,000 patch test results, combined), plus other studies. Remember, we are all individuals — just because an ingredient is not on the most common allergen lists does not mean you cannot be sensitive to it, or that it will not become an allergen. These references, being based on so many patch test results, are a good basis but it is always best to get a patch test yourself.
- DeKoven JG, Silverberg JI, Warshaw EM, Atwater AR, et al. North American Contact Dermatitis Group Patch Test Results: 2017-2018. Dermatitis. 2021 Mar-Apr 01;32(2):111-123.
- DeKoven JG, Warshaw EM, Zug KA, et al. North American Contact Dermatitis Group Patch Test Results: 2015-2016. Dermatitis. 2018 Nov/Dec;29(6):297-309.
- DeKoven JG, Warshaw EM, Belsito DV, et al. North American Contact Dermatitis Group Patch Test Results 2013-2014. Dermatitis. 2017 Jan/Feb;28(1):33-46.
- Warshaw, E.M., Maibach, H.I., Taylor, J.S., et al. North American contact dermatitis group patch test results: 2011-2012. Dermatitis. 2015; 26: 49-59.
- W Uter et al. The European Baseline Series in 10 European Countries, 2005/2006–Results of the European Surveillance System on Contact Allergies (ESSCA). Contact Dermatitis 61 (1), 31-38.7 2009.
- Wetter, DA et al. Results of patch testing to personal care product allergens in a standard series and a supplemental cosmetic series: An analysis of 945 patients from the Mayo Clinic Contact Dermatitis Group, 2000-2007. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2010 Nov;63(5):789-98.
- Warshaw EM, Buonomo M, DeKoven JG, et al. Importance of Supplemental Patch Testing Beyond a Screening Series for Patients With Dermatitis: The North American Contact Dermatitis Group Experience. JAMA Dermatol. 2021 Dec 1;157(12):1456-1465.
- Verallo-Rowell VM. The validated hypoallergenic cosmetics rating system: its 30-year evolution and effect on the prevalence of cosmetic reactions. Dermatitis 2011 Apr; 22(2):80-97.
- Ruby Pawankar et al. World Health Organization. White Book on Allergy 2011-2012 Executive Summary.
- Misery L et al. Sensitive skin in the American population: prevalence, clinical data, and role of the dermatologist. Int J Dermatol. 2011 Aug;50(8):961-7.
- Warshaw EM1, Maibach HI, Taylor JS, Sasseville D, DeKoven JG, Zirwas MJ, Fransway AF, Mathias CG, Zug KA, DeLeo VA, Fowler JF Jr, Marks JG, Pratt MD, Storrs FJ, Belsito DV. North American contact dermatitis group patch test results: 2011-2012.Dermatitis. 2015 Jan-Feb;26(1):49-59.
- Warshaw, E et al. Allergic patch test reactions associated with cosmetics: Retrospective analysis of cross-sectional data from the North American Contact Dermatitis Group, 2001-2004. J AmAcadDermatol 2009;60:23-38.
- Foliaki S et al. Antibiotic use in infancy and symptoms of asthma, rhinoconjunctivitis, and eczema in children 6 and 7 years old: International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood Phase III. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2009 Nov;124(5):982-9.
- Kei EF et al. Role of the gut microbiota in defining human health. Expert Rev Anti Infect Ther. 2010 Apr; 8(4): 435–454.
- Thavagnanam S et al. A meta-analysis of the association between Caesarean section and childhood asthma. Clin Exp Allergy. 2008;38(4):629–633.
- Marks JG, Belsito DV, DeLeo VA, et al. North American Contact Dermatitis Group patch-test results, 1998 to 2000. Am J Contact Dermat. 2003;14(2):59-62.
- Warshaw EM, Belsito DV, Taylor JS, et al. North American Contact Dermatitis Group patch test results: 2009 to 2010. Dermatitis. 2013;24(2):50-99.
- Verallo-Rowell V. M, Katalbas S.S. & Pangasinan J. P. Natural (Mineral, Vegetable, Coconut, Essential) Oils and Contact Dermatitis. Curr Allergy Asthma Rep 16,51 (2016) . https://doi.org/10.1007/s11882-016-0630-9.
- Park G, Oh DS, Lee MG, Lee CE, Kim YU. 6-Shogaol, an active compound of ginger, alleviates allergic dermatitis-like skin lesions via cytokine inhibition by activating the Nrf2 pathway. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2016 Nov 1;310:51-59. doi: 10.1016/j.taap.2016.08.019. Epub 2016 Aug 22. PMID: 27562088.
- de Groot AC. Monographs in Contact Allergy, Volume II – Fragrances and Essential Oils. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press Taylor & Francis Group; 2019.
- De Groot AC. Monographs in Contact Allergy Volume I. Non-Fragrance Allergens in Cosmetics (Part I and Part 2). Boca Raton, Fl, USA: CRC Press Taylor and Francis Group, 2018.
- Zhu TH, Suresh R, Warshaw E, et al. The Medical Necessity of Comprehensive Patch Testing. Dermatitis. 2018 May/Jun;29(3):107-111.
Want more great information on contact dermatitis? Check out the American Contact Dermatitis Society, Dermnet New Zealand, the Contact Dermatitis Institute, and your country’s contact dermatitis association.
Laura is our “dew”-good CEO at VMV Hypoallergenics and eldest daughter of VMV’s founding dermatologist-dermatopathologist. She has two children, Madison and Gavin, and works at VMV with her sister CC and husband Juan Pablo (Madison and Gavin frequently volunteer their “usage testing” services). In addition to saving the world’s skin, Laura is passionate about health, inclusion, cultural theory, human rights, happiness, and spreading (like a VMV cream!) goodness!