Families who use baby neck floats for their infants' swimming or water therapy might want to toss them in the trash. After receiving a report that one infant died and another was hospitalized after using them, the FDA is urging families to not use the baby neck floats.
“The risks of using baby neck floats include death due to drowning and suffocation, strain, and injury to a baby’s neck. Babies with special needs, such as spina bifida or SMA Type 1 may be at an increased risk for serious injury,” the FDA wrote in its safety communication about the product. “While the FDA believes that death or serious injury from neck floats is rare, health care providers, parents, and caregivers should be aware that these events can and do occur. It is also possible that some cases have not been reported to the FDA.”
The FDA communication notes that no one was monitoring the baby who died or the one who was injured. Babies with developmental delays or conditions such as spina bifida, spinal muscular atrophy type 1 (SMA), Down syndrome or cerebral palsy sometimes use such floats during water therapy, the agency said. Neck floats look like pool inner-tubes that go around a baby’s neck, allowing the baby to drift through water without being held.
“Some neck floats are marketed for babies as young as two weeks old or premature babies and are designed to cradle a baby’s head while their body moves freely in the water,” the FDA said.
Some makers of the baby neck floats say that their products help “increased muscle tone, greater flexibility and a range of motion, increased lung capacity, better sleep quality and increased brain and nervous system simulation.” The FDA noted that all these claims are unproven.
“The safety and effectiveness of neck floats to build strength, to promote motor development or as a physical therapy tool, has not been established,” the FDA said.
The FDA warned that neck floats for babies with developmental delays and disabilities can cause “increased risk of neck strain and injury.” The agency hasn’t evaluated their usefulness in medical or therapeutic situations. The agency is urging parents to report any injuries or deaths that might have occurred after their child used a neck float. The FDA also encourages health care providers to discontinue use of neck floats for water therapy.
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