Brought to you by Newscorp Australia

Doctor urges parents and kids to prevent mould growth

Anthony Piovesan, October 15, 2019 6:45PM Diamond Valley

Print Article

Dr Luke Sammartino (centre), Madison and Alexandra inspect lunch boxes and drink bottles for mould. Picture: Ellen Smith media_cameraDr Luke Sammartino (centre), Madison and Alexandra inspect lunch boxes and drink bottles for mould. Picture: Ellen Smith


Reading level: green

A child health specialist is urging parents and kids to inspect lunch boxes, drink bottles and toys for hidden mould.

The warning comes after 87 parents out of 104 who took part in a study by Victorian paediatrician* Dr Luke Sammartino noticed mould in their kids’ belongings.

Dr Sammartino said parents had identified mould in insulated drink bottle attachments and lunch boxes with removable compartments, as well as in bath toys (which little kids often suck), baby teethers with air hole openings and reusable straws from drinking cups such as sippy cups.

media_cameraAny cute little squeaky toy that gets moisture inside it could harbour mould.

“It can be very unnerving* for a parent to discover mould in an everyday item that their child plays with or drinks from and, understandably, they may begin to worry,” he said.

“Mould requires certain conditions to exist, including moisture and warmth, and everyday items can become a breeding ground for mould to grow if water becomes trapped in things like lids, valves* and drinking straws.

“It pays to be vigilant* as a precautionary* measure.”

Dr Sammartino said while not all mould was harmful, it was not an ideal scenario*.

“Children who have a weak immune system or those who are sensitive or allergic to mould may experience symptoms such as nasal* congestion, coughing or wheezing as a result of exposure,” he said.

ill boy lying in bed and blowing his nose at home media_cameraChildren who are ill or who are sensitive or allergic to mould may experience nasal congestion, coughing or wheezing if they are exposed to mould.

Victorian mother of three and author of parenting book Mama and the Doc Maria Ligerakis said she planned to regularly inspect her children’s everyday items.

“Parents strive to do the best they can for their children and there’s nothing worse than feeling panicked, worried or unsure when it comes to the health of your child,” she said.

“In addition to following the washing and care instructions on products, parents should check items such as toys, teethers and sippy cup straws regularly and replace them as required or source spare parts if they are available — This is so important for peace of mind.”

Preventing and checking for mould is something both kids and parents can quickly and easily do. Here’s how:

  1. Empty lunch boxes as soon as you get home from school.
  2. Wash lunch boxes with hot, soapy water as soon as possible, rinse and leave open to air dry before using again.
  3. If your lunch box has removable compartments or lids, wash each part separately.
  4. If you use a soft, cool-pack-style lunch bag, turn inside out to wash and leave to dry inside out.
  5. Avoid putting anything but water in drink bottles, as sugary drinks (including fruit juice) can increase the risk of bacteria and mould.
  6. Rinse cups and drink bottles as soon as possible after each use and allow time to thoroughly air dry.
  7. Take apart all pieces of drink containers (such as lids, straws and squirter-top attachments) and soak each part in hot, soapy water.
  8. Use a bottle cleaning brush.
  9. Inspect bath toys and baby teethers, particularly squeaky types with air holes, as mould can squirt out when they are squeezed. Replace often.
media_cameraInspect bath toys such as rubber duckies, particularly squeaky types with air holes, as mould can squirt out when they are squeezed. Replace often.


  • paediatrician: doctor specialising in children’s and babies’ health
  • unnerving: makes you lose confidence
  • valves: a part in a tube that stops liquid from flowing back out
  • vigilant: watchful
  • precautionary: just in case
  • scenario: situation
  • nasal: to do with the nose


Avoid illness: wash reusable bags

We are losing the war against superbugs

Junk food ban needed for school canteens

Bananas you can eat with the peel on


  1. What is a paediatrician?
  2. How many parents in the study noticed mould? How many took part in the study?
  3. What could happen if you let your lunch box or drink bottle go mouldy?
  4. When should you take food scraps and rubbish out of your lunch box?
  5. What should you leave time for after washing items?


1. Mouldy mate
Sketch and design a mascot relating to mould, give it a name and create a little rhyme or chant to get kids to remember to help keep their lunchboxes and drink bottles clean and hygienic. Use the tips from the Kids News article to help you.

Draw your mascot and include your rhyme on a piece of poster paper to share with the class.

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Music, Critical and creative thinking, Health and Physical Education

2. Extension
Thinking of your own house and belongings, do an audit in your mind (you can do it at home later) of all the things mentioned in the Kids News article. Write a list of the things you might own that could possibly have mould that need a good wash or replacing.

How could you help at home to keep your own things clean and mould free?

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Health and Physical Education

After reading the article, with a partner, highlight all the openers you can find in blue. Discuss if they are powerful and varied openers or not. Why do you think the journalist has used a mix of simple and power openers? Would you change any, and why?

HAVE YOUR SAY: Do you or your parents wash your lunch box and drink bottle? How could you better avoid mould growing?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

Extra Reading in health