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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 Jessica Harju, OTR/L, ATC, occupational therapist at Aspirus. “Backpacks are intended to distribute the weight among the body’s strongest muscles.”

This National School Backpack Awareness Day (September 16), Harju offers some tips to help children wear their backpacks safely and correctly:

  • Start with a lightweight backpack. Make sure 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. The straps should be snug, but not so tight they cause discomfort.
  • Try a backpack with a waist strap. A waist strap holds the contents closer to your child’s back, which can help them maintain their balance.
  • Use both straps. Make sure your child is wearing both straps at all times. Using both straps can help distribute the weight more evenly and prevent your child from leaning to one side.
  • Don’t overload. Your child’s backpack should weigh no more than 15 percent of their total weight. Remove any items that are unnecessary.

“Loading the heaviest item closest to your child’s back is important,” Harju said. “Encourage your child to carry heavier items in their arms, if at all possible.”

For more information, visit aspirus.org.