Parents in Action: Backpack safety

The new school year is underway, which means that kids will start filling their backpacks with their new school supplies. As your kids pile notebooks into their new backpacks, parents should consider the comfort and safety risks that come with heavy backpacks.

According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, there are more than 7,300 backpack related injuries annually treated by hospitals and doctors. Here are some signs to look for and tips to prevent backpack injuries in your child.

Causes of Backpack Injuries.
When used properly, backpacks can be a good way to carry the necessities of a school day. Backpacks are designed to distribute the weight of the load among the body’s strongest muscles, so they are the best choice for kids that have to carry multiple books to and from home and classes. The biggest problem lies in kids having to carry multiple heavy books for several hours.

According to Baycare, a backpack should never weigh more than 15 to 20 percent of the child’s body weight, or they risk serious injury. Wearing a backpack improperly or putting too many books in the backpack are the leading causes of backpack injuries.  

Common backpack injuries occur in the muscles and joints, and include severe back pain, neck and shoulder pain. Kids can also get permanent posture problems. Kids also risk curving and mis-aligning their spine and causing strains and sprains in their backs and shoulders. These types of injuries can follow your children into adulthood, so it is important to try to prevent backpack injuries as much as possible.

Injury Prevention.
Preventing backpack injuries can be simple. One of the most easy and important things you can do to prevent injuries, is to make sure your child is wearing their backpack correctly. Health Day News suggests wearing both straps, and making sure that the straps are wide and padded. Kids should also be wearing their backpack at least 2 inches above their waist, and it should be close to the body, not sagging down from the back.

Another way to prevent backpack injuries is to make sure it is balanced. Teach your kids to organize their books so that the heaviest ones are centered. Encourage them to spread their supplies throughout the backpacks designated compartments to even out the load. Try to choose a backpack with thick straps and a lot of pockets. Baycare also has an excellent video right now that will help you pick the right size backpack for your child.

Another easy way to prevent backpack injuries is to lighten the load. If your kids are constantly coming home with a heavy backpack full of books, consider alternatives, like getting home copies of the books or finding out if the teacher would allow an “E-Book” to use at home. If none of these are an option, consider a rolling backpack to help your child more easily carry their books, or you can request a prescription for two sets of books from your child’s doctor according to Baycare.


Signs of Injury or Backpack Danger.
There are a few signs to watch for that your child’s backpack is too heavy, and there are some instances when you will need to seek medical help. If your child has a visible change in posture when they are wearing their backpack, for example if they are hunching even slightly over, their backpack is too heavy. Another sign to look for is if the child is struggling when putting on or taking off the backpack.
It is important to encourage your child to tell you if they feel pain when they wear their backpack, or if they have tingling or numbness. You should also be on the lookout for red marks on their shoulders or backs. If they have tingling or numbness they should be taken to a chiropractor or pediatrician.
Always make sure that you are communicating with your child about the importance of backpack safety. If they understand the need to tell you when their back hurts or why they shouldn’t overload their backpack, they can help prevent future injuries.
For more information on backpack and back to school safety, visit our friends at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital and visit TBParenting.com.

 


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