As temperatures climbed and families headed to the pool, the Food and Drug Administration warned parents and caregivers against the use of neck floats for infants this past summer; particularly those with special needs.
Neck floats were designed as a way of letting infants float in water without having to know how to actually stay afloat. Marketed as both flotation devices as well as water-therapy products, the plastic ring is inflated and then placed around the baby’s neck. The ring then keeps the baby’s head above water.
The agency specifically cites the potential for harm of babies and infants suffering from developmental delays, birth defects and genetic disorders like cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, spina bifida, and spinal muscular atrophy type 1. Contrary to their marketing language, the FDA says that “the use of neck floats in babies with special needs can lead to increased risk of neck strain and injury. The agency also says that the “safety and effectiveness of neck floats to build strength, to promote motor development or as a physical therapy tool, have not been established.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics also notes the difference between marketing language and the use of actual, certified personal flotation devices. “There is no data to support these neck floaties,” says Dr. Sarah Denny. Dr. Denny is a pediatrician as well as a spokesperson for the AAP. “So I think that this is the most important piece for parents to know. The other thing is, is when it comes to water safety, nothing inflatable is considered a water safety tool. So we have personal flotation devices in U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets that we can recommend. But none of those would be something that a child would put around their neck.” Dr. Denny went on to say that “the FDA came out with their warning and we don’t as an academy speak against specific items. But from a safety standpoint, I would encourage parents to not use these items.”