Baby neck floats could lead to severe injury, death: FDA

(WASHINGTON) — The Food and Drug Administration issued a new alert this week, warning parents not to use baby neck floats on their children, particularly those with special needs, as part of a water therapy program because doing so could be fatal or lead to serious injury.

“Neck floats are inflatable plastic rings that can be worn around a baby’s neck and allow babies to float freely in water,” the FDA explained in a safety communication released Tuesday, adding that they are sometimes marketed for premature babies and babies as young as 2 weeks old, and as water-therapy products.

The FDA also said the “safety and effectiveness of neck floats to build strength, to promote motor development or as a physical therapy tool, have not been established.”

According to the agency, neck floats “as therapy interventions” are especially hazardous for babies with developmental delays; birth defects or genetic disorders, such as cerebral palsy; Down syndrome; spina bifida; or spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) type 1.

“The use of neck floats in babies with special needs can lead to increased risk of neck strain and injury,” the FDA said in a recommendation to parents and caregivers.

The FDA believes injury or death from neck floats is rare but noted that one baby who had been placed in a baby neck float had been hospitalized and another died. It also noted that there may be a chance other cases have gone unreported.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents in general avoid using “floaties” or inflatable swimming aids on children as they can provide kids a false sense of security. They also note that floats and swimming aids are not adequate substitutes for life jackets.

“The market will keep coming up with ways to float infants and adults and market them. This is not a lifesaving device, not designed to be. We consistently say anything inflatable is only a toy; and can deflate. No child should be unsupervised or left alone in water, even with a personal flotation device or if wearing a US Coast Guard approved life jacket,” Dr. Linda Quan, an AAP spokesperson, told ABC News in a statement.

The FDA asks individuals to file a report if they know of any baby or individual injured by a neck float through their online voluntary reporting form.

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