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Aspirus has your child’s back with these helpful backpack tips

Every year in September, health care professionals and students celebrate National School Backpack Awareness Day to help educate parents, caregivers and students about health risks of backpacks that are worn incorrectly or too heavy.

According to the American Occupational Therapy Association, more than 79 million students in the United States carry a backpack and an estimated 55 percent of them are carrying a backpack that is too heavy.

“Backpacks are a popular way for children and teens to carry books and supplies,” said Todd Andres, Occupational Therapist at Aspirus. “Backpacks are intended to distribute the weight evenly and close to the core of the body.”

For this National School Backpack Awareness Day (September 16), Andres offers some tips to help children select and wear their backpacks safely and correctly:

  • Ideally, the backpack is made of a lightweight but sturdy material.

  • Make sure the shoulder straps are wide and padded. Wide, padded straps provide support and prevent the straps from becoming too tight or limiting circulation. The straps should be snug, but not so tight that they cause discomfort.

  • Use both shoulder straps whenever possible. Using both straps will help distribute the weight more evenly and prevent your child from leaning to one side. 

    • When using both shoulder straps is not possible, or the student has a satchel type bag, alternate the shoulder over which the bag is carried to avoid fatigue or creating a muscle imbalance.

  • Don’t overload the backpack. Your child’s backpack should weigh no more than 15 percent of their total weight. Remove any items that are unnecessary.

    • An average text book weighs 3.5 pounds and a notebook will average another 1.5 pounds so a 100 pound student would be safe with 2 of each in their backpack considering other necessities like food or clothing that may be in there.

“Loading the heaviest item(s) to the front or closest to your child’s back is important,” Andres said. “It is equally important to balance the load left to right as much as possible.”