By Matthew Waugh, MD
Department of Pediatrics
The first days of the school year are right around the corner, and soon your child will be grabbing their backpack and heading off to class. As kids load up those backpacks, it’s important for parents to assess the weight their children are carrying around all day. Lugging around a heavy, overloaded backpack from class to class can lead to back and shoulder pain, and sometimes numbness and tingling in the arms.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a good rule is that a child should not carry more than 15% of their body weight in a backpack. So, if your child weighs 65 pounds, that would be about 10.75 pounds.
Here are some more tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Chiropractic Association for playing it safe with backpacks:
- Always match the backpack to the child’s size. The backpack should sit approximately two inches above the hips for best fit.
- The backpack should hang just below the shoulders and rest on the hips and pelvis.
- Look for backpacks with two wide straps and padded backs for better weight distribution and greater comfort.
- Pack heavy items so they will be closest to the back when carried. Other lighter items can be organized in compartments further away from the body.
- Instead of keeping big, heavy textbooks inside the backpack all day, tell your child to store them in a locker at school or at home if they are not always needed.
- Encourage your child to include only necessities in their school backpacks.
If your child complains about discomfort when they put their backpack on or take it off after school, it’s important to take the issue seriously. A backpack that is too heavy or not fitted properly can cause real health problems. Be sure to discuss any backpack-related health problems with your pediatrician.
About Matthew Waugh, MD
Dr. Matthew Waugh joined the organization in 2007 after practicing in New York for almost a decade. He credits the excellent team he works with in helping him provide great care for kids. “The pediatrician is a key part of the team in healthcare but it’s really all the nurses and receptionists who make a great office.” Dr. Waugh believes in involving families in the decision process. “Often, there are options such as to treat an...View profile View posts by this doctor