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Healthy Balance

Backpack Safety for Kids

It's time to head back to school. Use these backpack safety tips. Aching back and shoulders…weakened muscles…tingling arms…stooped posture.

Does your child have these symptoms after wearing a heavy school backpack?

Carrying too much weight in a pack or wearing it the wrong way can lead to pain and strain.

You can take these steps to help your child load and wear a backpack the right way:

How to Load a Backpack

  • Never let your child carry more than 15 percent of his or her body weight.
  • Load heaviest items closest to your child’s back (at the back of the pack).
  • Arrange books and materials so they won’t slide around in the backpack.
  • Take out any items that aren’t necessary for the day’s activities.
  • On days the backpack is too loaded, your child can hand-carry a book or other item.
  • If the backpack is too heavy, consider using a book bag on wheels if your child’s school allows it.

How to Wear a Backpack

  • Your child should always wear both straps. (Wearing a pack slung over one shoulder can cause children to lean to one side, curving the spine and causing pain or discomfort.)
  • Choose a pack with well-padded shoulder straps. Shoulders and necks are sensitive. They have many blood vessels and nerves that can cause pain and tingling in the neck, arms and hands when too much pressure is applied.
  • Adjust the shoulder straps so that the pack fits snugly to your child’s back. (A pack that hangs loosely from the back can pull your child backwards and strain muscles.)
  • Make sure your child wears the waist belt if the backpack has one. This helps distribute the pack’s weight more evenly.
  • The bottom of the pack should rest in the curve of the lower back. It should never rest more than 4 inches below your child’s waistline.
  • School backpacks come in different sizes for different ages. Choose the right size pack for your child’s back, and make sure it’s roomy enough for necessary school items.

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