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Back to School Backpacks
The Healthy Way

Get your child off to a good start with a backpack that fits Backpacks are cool for back to school.

Decorated with trendy logos, water bottles or serious solid colors, these easy to carry schoolbags fly off the shelves in all of the big department stores as parents hurry to get ready for the start of school.

Take more than a minute to inspect any backpack that you child will use to carry books and supplies. In the rush to finish back-to-school shopping for their children, parents may unknowingly purchase backpacks that do more harm than good, warns a University of Florida occupational therapist.

In a study of American students, published in the Indian Journal of Pediatrics, researchers found that six out of 10 students ages 9 to 20 reported health problems related to heavy backpacks. That means more than half of the school aged population is struggling with a load that's too heavy or not sitting correctly on their backs.

Why Such a Fuss About Backpacks?

young girl with a school backpack
Make sure you teach your child to
wear both shoulder straps to evenly
distribute the weight of the pack.

That's simple. Overloaded and improperly worn backpacks can result in chronic back pain, poor posture and numbness in the hands and arms, said Joanne Jackson Foss, director of professional programs in occupational therapy and assistant dean of academic affairs at the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions.

The few minutes you spend picking out a backpack that fits your child can save plenty of distress during the school year.

Plan for Safety

Parents should choose backpacks that are in proportion to their child's size and that have padded straps, Foss said.

Backpacks with wheels are ideal, but not always practical in schools with narrow hallways — ask officials at your child's school for their recommendation. You might want to take a look at the type of backpack that has smaller wheels for getting to and from school, but can be carried in traditional backpack fashion between classes.

Look for reflective materials to provide safety during dark times of the day. During early morning hours or dark afternoons, cars are more likely to see a small child with a reflective backpack.

Put your child's name and other personal information on the inside of the backpack. Names on the outside of the pack give strangers a way to identify and call to a youngster.

Straps Are Important

Backpacks with straps that distribute the weight to the torso and hips help to lighten the load. Look inside the pack as well to see if there is an extra layer of padding in the back to protect a growing spine from bumps and bruises.

Check to make sure that the over the shoulder straps are wide enough to be comfortable. Thinner straps may focus the load in one place ending up with red and painful shoulders or numbness in the arms and hands from blocking the blood circulation.

Lighten the Load

Regularly monitoring the weight of your child's loaded backpack is crucial. Children should never carry a load that is more than 15 to 20 percent of their body weight.“Also, when fitting your child with a backpack, make sure you teach your child to wear both shoulder straps,” Foss said. “This helps to more evenly distribute the weight of the pack.”

Buying a backpack for school that has plenty of compartments makes it easier to organize supplies and also shifts the weight more evenly.

Bigger Is Not Better

The bigger the schoolbag, the more stuff gets put inside. Look for a bag that can carry the books your child will need to carry, but don't go for oversized backpacks.

Finally, the bottom of the backpack should rest in the curve of the lower back, not more than four inches below the child's waistline.

Your children will be in a better frame of mind to actually use the books they're carrying home if you pick a pack that's easy to carry.

About The Author...
The Editorial Staff

Source: UF College of Public Health and Health Professions (Newswise)

Original Illustration courtesy Virginia Beach City Public Schools

also see in Shopping -> School Supplies

Related Links of Interest

Backpacks - how to prevent back pain in children

Backpack Safety - Kids Health

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