WASHINGTON — Santa Claus can cross one item off his list this holiday: finding toys for children who have asthma and allergies. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) has already done the work for him by launching a creative new program to certify products as “asthma friendly®.”
The “asthma friendly” certified toys are already on the shelves at major retailers including Target, Kohl’s, Build-a-Bear Workshop, FAO Schwartz, Learning Express and many others. All Santa has to do is look for the asthma friendly® certification mark or visit www.asthmafriendly.com to find toys that have been scientifically tested and proved to be more suitable for people with asthma and allergic sensitivities. Certified pillows will be available in December, and mattress and pillow protectors/encasements, vacuum cleaners, paints, flooring and other types of items will also be considered for certification next year.
More than 60 million people in the United States have asthma and allergies, making them two of the most common chronic diseases among children and adults. Prevalence rates for both diseases have doubled in the past 20 years, and doctors and scientists warn that asthma and allergy triggers are everywhere.
“Symptoms such as sneezing, coughing, wheezing and difficulty breathing can be triggered by many things around the house,” says Dr. Sheryl Lucas, a board-certified allergist for adults and pediatric in Washington. “Stuffed toys are notorious for carrying dust mites and other substances that can be a major problem for children who take plush toys everywhere they go, including to bed.”
For years, allergists have instructed patients to look for household products that help reduce exposure to allergens and irritants, but, according to Lucas, it’s been a guessing game. “Until now there has not been a reliable source of information about which products are best at helping with this,” says Lucas. “I know a lot of doctors and patients, and moms and dads, who will be very happy that this certification program is in place.”
The “asthma friendly” certification program is a joint effort between the nonprofit AAFA and the international research and testing organization, Allergy Standards Limited (ASL). Standards are written for different types of products; then manufacturers submit products for laboratory testing to determine if they meet the standards and qualify for the “asthma friendly” certification mark. (Abstracts of the standards and information about the program are posted online.)
This unique program does more than just inform consumers if a product is certified. Each toy comes with a unique registration code and instructions to help parents keep them in “asthma friendly” condition. For example, the certified plush toys come with a tag containing wash and care instructions such as, “place toy in the freezer for 24 hours and then machine wash” every four weeks to kill dust mites and their eggs, and other tips.
A recently certified toy, the Floppy Puppy Dog, manufactured by Kids Preferred and sold at Target stores, was recently recognized by consumer advocates and toy industry experts with an Oppenheim Gold Seal award, just in time for the holidays. “This is going to be a huge help for me and my relatives when we start buying gifts for the kids this year,” says Adele Bourgault, a mother from Maryland who has two children with severe asthma and allergies. “I’m sure it will be a big help for Santa, too,” she added.
Source: The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America