A one-month-old baby has died after suffocating while wearing an inflatable neck float used to help her swim.
The girl’s death has sparked widespread horror across China and raised questions over the safety of the popular swimming device.
The child was swimming in a makeshift pool accompanied by her mother and grandmother at their home in the Chinese city of Changsha, Hunan, on Monday.
They had placed an inflatable ring around her neck and allowed her to swim for more than 10 minutes unassisted, Chinese news site The Paper reported.
When they removed the ring they noticed marks on her neck. They assumed the reason the child was unresponsive was because she was asleep, state broadcaster CCTV reported.
It was only until her father returned home hours later they realised something was wrong after he found her unresponsive.
They rushed her to hospital however the child had died of asphyxiation.
The child’s death has been widely reported in China, with news reports on Twitter-like Chinese site Weibo viewed more than 450 million times.
Many users questioned the safety of the popular trend to allow young babies to swim using the inflatable donut and said a one-month-old child was too young to be using it.
“Why do children have to go swimming?” one person questioned.
“I hope this terrible tragedy will not happen again,” another said.
Song Yulei, a physician at the First Department of Critical Care Medicine at Hunan Children's Hospital, said young babies’ bodies were not developed enough to wear the rings and warned parents not to put their newborns in them.
"It is particularly easy to strangle the neck. In addition, the baby's weight may cause suffocation when it is pressed down,” Dr Song said, according to The Paper.
Medical experts have warned if parents do use the device, it should be used under the supervision of instructors at a class.
Rise in global popularity in neck floats
Inflatable neck floats are widely available for purchase on Chinese e-commerce sites and are a popular trend for parents in recent years.
The trend has also developed in the Western world with the floats becoming hits on social media, however experts overseas have also warned of the dangers.
In 2017, two varieties of neck floats were banned in Queensland and were recalled due to their drowning risk.
The former chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention, Kyran Quinlan, previously labelled the rings “potential death traps”.
"Neck floats for babies scare me to death, and I hope they scare parents,” he told US news station WDSU.
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