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Our friends at Healthy Children and the American Academy of Pediatricians have some tips on back-to-school backpack safety that can help prevent aches and pains and have your child stand tall.

Choose the Right Backpack

Look for the following:

  • Wide, padded shoulder straps — Narrow straps can dig into shoulders. This can cause pain and restrict circulation.
  • Two shoulder straps — Backpacks with one shoulder strap that runs across the body cannot distribute weight evenly.
  • Padded back — A padded back protects against sharp edges on objects inside the pack and increases comfort.
  • Waist strap — A waist strap can distribute the weight of a heavy load more evenly.
  • Lightweight backpack — The backpack itself should not add much weight to the load.
  • Rolling backpack — This type of backpack may be a good choice for students who must tote a heavy load. Remember that rolling backpacks still must be carried up stairs. They may be difficult to roll in snow.
  • Always use both shoulder straps. Slinging a backpack over one shoulder can strain muscles. Wearing a backpack on one shoulder may increase curvature of the spine.
  • Tighten the straps so that the pack is close to the body. The straps should hold the pack two inches above the waist.
  • Pack light. The backpack should never weigh more than 10 to 20 percent of the student’s total body weight.
  • Organize the backpack to use all of its compartments. Pack heavier items closest to the center of the back.
  • Stop often at school lockers, if possible. Do not carry all of the books needed for the day.
  • Bend using both knees, when you bend down. Do not bend over at the waist when wearing or lifting a heavy backpack.
  • Encourage your child or teenager to tell you about pain or discomfort that may be caused by a heavy backpack. Do not ignore any back pain in a child or teenager. Ask your pediatrician for advice.
  • Talk to the school about lightening the load. Be sure the school allows students to stop at their lockers throughout the day. Team up with other parents to encourage changes.
  • Consider buying (or downloading to a tablet), an “at-home” set of textbooks for your student to keep at home.

Parents also can help in the following ways:

  • Encourage your child or teenager to tell you about pain or discomfort that may be caused by a heavy backpack. Do not ignore any back pain in a child or teenager. Ask your pediatrician for advice.
  • Talk to the school about lightening the load. Be sure the school allows students to stop at their lockers throughout the day. Team up with other parents to encourage changes.
  • Consider buying a second set of textbooks for your student to keep at home.
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