BATON ROUGE — The first day of school is less than one month away. It’s Aug. 8 in Ascension and East Baton Rouge parishes and Zachary; Aug. 9 in Livingston and West Feliciana parishes; and Aug. 12 in East Feliciana and Tangipahoa parishes.

A major activity at this time the purchase of school supplies and backpack to carry these items. Unfortunately, all too often children struggle to put on their backpack, or they are bent forward/arching their back while carrying it, a news release said.

“School children and teens should not carry too much weight in their backpack or wear it the wrong way. Either of these missteps can cause a lot of problems for kids, such as backaches, neck and shoulder pain, tingling, numbness and weakness in the arms and hands,” said Ochsner pediatrician Dionna Mathews. “A child’s posture can be damaged both in the short and long term.”

A good rule of thumb is to never load a backpack more than 15% of the student's total body weight (i.e. for a 100-pound student, this means the fully loaded pack shouldn’t weigh more than 15 pounds), the release said.

Backpacks come in a variety of sizes for different ages, and choosing the right one for your child can be overwhelming. By investing time to find the best pack, you strive toward a healthier outcome for your child.

Some tips can help purchase the best backpack:

  • A lightweight pack that doesn’t add a lot of weight to your child’s load and is appropriate for your child’s size.
  • The height of the backpack should extend from approximately two inches below the shoulder blades to waist level or slightly above the waist.
  • Select a pack with well-padded and wide shoulder straps and one that has a padded back to protect your child from being poked from objects carried inside the pack.
  • It contains multiple compartments that help distribute the weight more evenly.

Here are a tips to properly wear a backpack:

  • Load heaviest items closest to the student's back (back of pack near shoulder straps) and arrange books and materials so they don’t slide around by using all compartments.
  • Distribute weight evenly by wearing both straps. Wearing a pack over one shoulder may seem like a cooler trend, but it can cause a student to lean to one side, curving the spine and causing pain or discomfort.
  • Adjust the shoulder straps so that the backpack fits snugly on the back. The bottom of the pack should rest in the curve of the lower back.
  • Encourage your child to pick up their backpack the right way to avoid back injuries; bend at the knees and grab the pack with both hands when lifting the pack to the shoulders.
  • Determining backpack weight is important and students should learn when the backpack exceeds the 15% rule so they can remove items.
  • Persuade your child to use their locker frequently throughout the day instead of carrying the entire days’ worth of books in their backpack. Above all, urge your child to tell you if they are in pain.