How mold in a bath toy sent my 2-year-old to the ER with a serious eye infection

I wasn’t prepared for what I saw when I walked into my 2-year-old son’s room one morning in March: his eye, swollen beyond recognition, just 12 hours after his bath, when he had squirted himself in the eye with water from a squeezable rubber duck toy. In shock, all I could do was yell down the stairs to my husband to call 911 or help me get my son into the car quickly.

The squirting was an innocent action he’d done many times before, but this time his eye had begun to look a bit infected. Not thinking much of it, we had taken him to an urgent care clinic and left armed with a diagnosis of pink eye and a prescription for eye drops, hoping the infection cleared up soon. But almost immediately, it began to get worse, and by midnight he was in the emergency room with a diagnosis of cellulitis and we went home with a prescription for strong oral antibiotics. But by morning, we were rushing him to the hospital with a raging fever, praying he wouldn’t lose his now grossly disfigured eye.

The writer’s son, with the eye infection that sent him to the hospital. (Photo courtesy Eden Strong)

It was there that we learned he was at risk for not only losing his vision but, should the infection spread to his brain, he could lose much more than his eyesight. Thankfully, after IV antibiotics, a CT scan to check for retinal damage, and specialized follow-up care, we were blessed that he pulled through with his vision intact.

Yet although my son has healed well, I’ve never been able to shake the feeling that other parents need to be aware of the hidden dangers some tub toys pose. I had cleaned that specific toy

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