Occupational therapists with Beaufort Memorial Hospital’s Outpatient Rehabilitation Services Department want Beaufort County parents, teachers, and students to be aware of the dangers of heavy school backpacks.
The effort is part of a national awareness campaign led by the American Occupational Therapy Association’s (AOTA) National School Backpack Awareness Day on September 19.
“As both a parent and a therapist, I am acutely aware of the health dangers an overloaded backpack can pose,” said Beaufort Memorial Rehab Services Senior Director Laurie Martin. “We want to provide information to protect children against the strain, chronic back pain, and possible long-term effects of backpack-related health problems.”
Martin is urging parents and teachers to follow these 10 backpack safety tips from the AOTA:
- Never let a child carry more than 15 percent of his or her body weight. This means a child weighing 100 pounds should not wear a backpack weighing more than 15 pounds.
- Load heaviest items closest to the child’s back and arrange books and materials to prevent them from sliding.
- Always wear both shoulder straps. Wearing only one strap can cause a child to lean to one side, curving the spine and causing pain or discomfort.
- Select a pack with well-padded shoulder straps. Too much pressure on shoulders and necks can cause pain and tingling.
Adjust the straps so that the pack fits snugly to the child’s back. The bottom of the pack should rest ie curve of the lower back, never more than four inches below the child’s waistline.
- Wear the waist belt, if the backpack has one, to help distribute the pack’s weight more evenly.
- Check what your child carries to school and brings home to make sure the items are necessary to the day’s activities.
- If the backpack is too heavy, consider using a book bag on wheels if your child’s school allows it.
- Choose the right size pack for your child’s back as well as one with enough room for the necessary school items.
- If a student is experiencing back pain or neck soreness, consult your doctor or occupational therapist.
To reach Beaufort Memorial Hospital Outpatient Rehabilitation Services, call 843-522-5630.