After her 2-year-old was hospitalized with a dangerous bacterial infection, a mom is warning other parents to be vigilant about squirting bath toys.

By Maressa Brown
October 01, 2020
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Like most 2-year-olds, a little boy from the Chicago area named Baylor enjoys playing with toys at bath time. But the seemingly harmless activity took a dangerous turn when he came down with a bacterial infection in his eyes. His mom, Eden Strong, recently shared the unsettling details on her Facebook page as a warning for other parents.

"I knew water could get trapped in tub toys, particularly the rubber ones designed to squirt water," wrote the Plainfield, Illinois-based mom. "I've seen the posts where moms have cut them open and discovered a ridiculous amount of mold inside. I knew. So I squeezed them out after each bath, cleaned them out every few weeks with a bleach water solution, and regularly held them up to the light to look for mold. However, I didn’t know that even with regular bleach cleaning, the fact that they never fully dry on the inside means that bacteria can still grow. Invisible bacteria."

Strong recalled how her nanny told her, "Baylor squirted himself in the eye with a tub toy," and she noticed that his eye had turned a "little bit" red. "I figured it was just irritated from the water, or maybe the pressure of the water, and so I didn’t think much of it," recalled the Illinois mom. "But when I put him in his high chair that night for dinner and noticed that his eye looked even redder than it had earlier, I had my husband run him over to urgent care, assuming he had pink eye. The doctor agreed and I patted myself on the back a bit for being so attentive. He got his first dose of eye drops and because I was already priding myself on being attentive, I decided to give him a booster dose in the middle of the night just to assure he would be feeling better by morning."

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She didn't expect to find him in his crib "with an eye twice the size as it was when he went to bed, with redness spreading down his cheek."

Strong suspected that he was developing an infection and took her son to the ER. A doctor diagnosed him with orbital cellulitis (a bacterial infection of the eye often caused by streptococcal or staphylococcal bacteria) and Baylor was prescribed oral antibiotics, which he took at 2:30 a.m. But by 6 a.m., the situation had taken a troubling turn. "His eye was so swollen that the white part was bulging out from between his eyelid and his iris was being obscured," wrote Strong. "He felt hot to the touch and a temperature check showed that he had a raging fever. Despite having another child with epilepsy and therefore being pretty good at keeping my cool, I cried the entire drive to a larger hospital, praying that he wouldn’t lose his eye."

The parents sped back to the hospital where he received IV antibiotics and a CT scan was done to check his retina. "The next week was pretty scary," wrote Strong. "He had severe cellulitis that eventually spread down his face and to both eyes. They warned me that he may lose vision in the worse eye, but in the end, thank the Lord his eyes healed."

Photo courtesy of Eden Strong

Following the harrowing experience, Strong is intent on raising awareness. She tells Parents.com, "What I wish more parents understood, and what I wish I had realized, is that any toy that that traps water inside of it—such as the ones that squeeze and shoot water out—whether they appear clean or not, are a risk."

Dr. Gina Posner, a pediatrician at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California, agrees, advising, "It wouldn't hurt to throw the toys in a bleach bath every week or two to clean them and throw them out every few months. They do tend to grow mold and bacteria inside over time."

Strong told CBS Chicago that she hopes manufacturers address the issue, as well. “I’ve been shocked,” she said. “I have a completely full inbox with parents sending me pictures of their children who have gone through the same thing. It really does seem to be a design issue across all manufacturers and not just one specific one, so I really hope even those people will look at this and take that into consideration.”

Strong didn't want to name the manufacturer because she feels that they are a good company with a bad product, but she did send them the toy that led to her son's infection and has yet to hear back, according to CBS. And CBS says according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, there have been no recalls of bacteria in squirting bath toys—only reports of mold.

In the meantime, Baylor has made a full recovery. Here's hoping Strong's warning serves to protect kids from enduring a similarly terrifying experience as the result of playtime in the tub.

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