The Surprising Reason Why Lifeguards HATE Floaties

Updated: Oct. 26, 2022

Think twice before you buy another pool noodle.

The-Surprising-Reason-Why-Lifeguards-HATE-Water-Wings-4361611-Ingrid-BalabanovaIngrid Balabanova/shutterstockIf your kid can’t swim, it might seem like a good idea to strap them into some water wings this summer and hit the local swimming pool or beach. But before you do that, think twice.

“Floaties can pop or fall off, or even carry kids out into areas they don’t want to be in,” says Tom Gil, spokesperson for the United States Lifesaving Association. “We want to instill confidence in children in the water and that’s not the best way to go about it.”

In addition to the USLA, the CDC also advises against the use of water wings. One reason the toys are so dangerous is because they give a false sense of confidence—to parents and kids alike. Arm floats can tempt those supervising kids into paying less attention, and can encourage the kids wearing them into taking more risks.

The wings can also make it difficult for kids to maneuver around the pool—and nearly impossible for them to roll over if they end up face down in the water.

Other devices to watch out for are pool noodles, inner tubes, and inflatable rafts.

“Often people will use inflatable rafts and think they can go out as far as they want,” says Gils. “What they don’t understand is that those rafts aren’t attached to anything and aren’t meant to be lifesaving devices.”

So what’s the alternative? “Our rule is don’t float where you can’t swim,” says Gils.

If you child needs support in the water, or is going out on a boat, opt for a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets are the safest option.

And keep in mind, says Gils: “Nothing can substitute learning how to swim.”