Q. How do I know if my child's backpack is straining his back?
A. This question is timely -- tomorrow marks the 12th annual National School Backpack Awareness Day. The American Occupational Therapy Association promotes this day every year on the third Wednesday in September to educate parents and students about the risks of pain and injury from a backpack that is too heavy or worn improperly.
Here are tips from the association:
*A loaded backpack should not weigh more than 10 percent of the child's weight.
*The height of the backpack should extend from two inches below the shoulder blades to waist level or slightly above.
*Students should wear backpacks on both shoulders, so weight is evenly distributed. Wearing a pack slung over one shoulder can cause a child to lean, curving the spine and causing pain.
*Load heaviest items closest to the child's back (the back of the pack). Arrange books and materials so they don't slide around.
*Make sure the items in the pack are necessary for the day's activities.
*Adjust shoulder straps so the pack fits snugly.
*Wear the waist belt if the backpack has one. This helps distribute the pack's weight evenly.
*The bottom of the pack should rest in the curve of the lower back. It should never rest more than four inches below the child's waistline.
*Consider using a book bag on wheels if your child's school allows it.