WEDNESDAY, June 29, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Neck floats marketed for babies to use in water can lead to serious injury or death, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned this week.

The inflatable plastic rings are especially dangerous for infants who have developmental delays or special needs, such as those with spina bifida, spinal muscular atrophy type 1, Down syndrome, or cerebral palsy, the agency said in its news release. The neck floats can increase the risk of neck strain and injury, according to the agency.

“The FDA is aware that some manufacturers are claiming these products support water therapy interventions in babies with developmental delays or special needs and that the benefits of these products include increased muscle tone, greater flexibility and range of motion, increased lung capacity, better sleep quality, and increased brain and nervous system stimulation,” the statement noted. Yet 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 FDA.

The agency encouraged parents and providers to report any injuries that have happened using the pint-sized swim aids to the FDA, so it can identify and better understand the risks associated with medical devices.

The FDA said it knows of one baby death and another baby who was hospitalized with injuries related to neck floats. Both babies were injured when their caregivers were not directly monitoring them, and it is possible some cases have not been reported to the FDA.

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