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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently released a new warning to parents, caregivers, and healthcare providers: Do not use baby neck floats for water therapy interventions, especially with babies who have developmental delays or special needs, due to the risk of death or injury.

FDA Aware of One Baby Dying While Using a Neck Float

Baby neck floats are inflatable plastic rings that can be worn around a baby’s neck, allowing babies to float freely in the water. Some are designed for babies as young as two weeks old or even premature babies. They cradle a baby’s head while the body moves freely in the water.

Parents may use these products during a baby’s bath, while their baby is swimming, and as a physical therapy tool for babies with developmental delays or disabilities.

Some manufacturers claim these products help babies with special needs, providing increased muscle tone, greater flexibility and range of motion, increased lung capacity, better sleep quality, and increased brain and nervous system stimulation.

Yet the FDA says that there is no evidence to support these assertions. Meanwhile, the administration is aware of one baby who died and one who was hospitalized due to the use of baby neck floats. In both cases, the babies’ caregivers were not directly monitoring them.

The FDA states that these incidences are rare, but that parents, caregivers, and health care providers should be aware of them.

Risks Associated with Neck Floats

The risks associated with neck floats include:

  • Drowning
  • Suffocation
  • Strain
  • Injury to the baby’s neck
  • Serious injury (for babies with special needs)

The FDA recommends that parents and caregivers not use these products for water therapy intervention. “The use of these products, especially with babies with developmental delays or special needs, can lead to death or serious injury.”

The floats may also lead to an increased risk of neck strain and injury. They have not been evaluated by the FDA and the administration is not aware of “any demonstrated benefit with the use of neck floats for water therapy interventions.”

The FDA also recommended that doctors and other health care providers review this safety information with colleagues, care teams, parents, and caregivers of babies who use neck floats for water therapy intervention, “to ensure they are aware of the potential risk of death or injury associated with neck floats.” The administration also suggested healthcare professionals discourage the use of neck floats in babies with these conditions.

If a baby experiences a problem with a neck float, the FDA has asked that you report this to them as that can help them identify and better understand the risks associated with these devices.

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