Backpack Safety: A Back-to-School Priority


Is your childs backpack too heavy? The National Institutes of Health warn that a full backpack that weighs more than 15 to 20 percent of your childs body weight can cause shoulder, neck and back pain.

At Samuel Tucker Elementary school, students learn about backpack safety through the Tucker Today Show, according to Olga Wright, RN, CPNP, the school nurse. We have the students talk about the way to wear a backpack properly, she said. They demonstrate how to keep the straps properly tied, not to sling the bag over one shoulder and [to keep] the weight above the belt.

How do you know if the backpack your child carries is too heavy? Does your child complain of back pain? Maybe your child walks bent over or sideways, or complains of numbness and tingling in their arms or hands. Weigh the full bag to see if it weighs more than 15 to 20 percent of your childs body weight.

The National Institutes of Health offer the following guidelines to help prevent school backpack related injuries:

  • Select a lightweight backpack that has two wide and padded shoulder straps, a cushioned back and waist straps to keep the bag lifted above the waist. Bags that hang below the waist increase weight on the shoulders and will cause leaning forward when walking. A pack with wheels may be a good choice if the book load is especially heavy.
  • Limit the load to no more that 15 to 20 percent of the childs weight. Check this often.
  • Pack the heaviest items closest to the center of the bag.
  • Encourage children to keep books that they do not need to carry throughout the day in their locker.
  • Use both shoulder straps when wearing the pack.
  • When wearing or lifting the bag, children should bend using both knees.
  • If your child complains of persistent back pain, consult a pediatrician.

There is one final suggestion based on experience to share with parents.  Empty and reload backpacks regularly.  Finding a two-month-old peanut butter and jelly sandwich, apple or cheese stick is not a pleasant experience.