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Is your child's backpack too heavy?

August 6, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Besides saving money this school year, pediatricians say you should also be concerned with saving your child's back. Textbooks, binders, stationery supplies, extra clothes, lunch, it all adds up. It's no wonder many kids complain of neck, shoulder and back pain.Every school year the book load gets heavier and heavier, so 2nd-grader Makayla Walia needs to figure out how to carry it all.

"If nothing fits in there I will take the stuff out and stuff it back in," said Makayla.

She often complains about the weight.

"Sometimes my backpack is too heavy," said Makayla.

"Somedays I'm like what is in here? I will pick her up and she will ask me to carry her backpack and a lot of times I will carry it," said Makayla's mom, Katina Waila.

"One of the textbooks can weigh anywhere from 3 to 5 pounds, a single textbook," said Dr. Christopher Tolcher, American Academy of Pediatrics.

Makayla weighs 52 pounds and a combination of her textbooks together weighs 17 pounds.

The average teenager often lugs around twice as much. The American Academy of Pediatrics offers specific guidelines.

"In general a backpack should be less than 10 to 20 percent of a child's weight," said Dr. Tolcher.

The average 7-year-old weighs about 50 pounds, so that means they shouldn't carry a backpack more than 5 pounds, 10 pounds max.

If your child is overweight doctors say that does not mean they should carry more.

"If a child is obes, you do not adjust their backpack weight up for that. So you might want to look at their ideal body weight," said Dr. Tolcher.

If your child's school does not allow a rolling bag, Dr. Tolcher recommends purchasing a lightweight backpack.

"It is also nice to have padding on the back," said Dr. Tolcher.

Doctors recommend to wear the backpack properly, use both straps and make sure the bag fits your body.

"The cool look is not always the healthy look. Therefore wearing it with two shoulder straps with pads is the safest way to do it," said Dr. Tolcher.

In Makayla's school only 3rd-graders can use rolling bags. Makayla got special permission from her pediatrician to get one.

"I like it and I want to use it again," said Makayla.

Dr. Tolcher says parents can help by encouraging kids to tell them if they are experiencing any pain from a heavy backpack. And they can consider buying a second set of textbooks to keep at home if that's possible.

 

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