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How to choose the right backpack for your kids

Before the 'ouch' becomes a long-term problem, physical

Before the 'ouch' becomes a long-term problem, physical therapists at the Harris County Hospital District want parents to know the dangers and preventable steps of poorly used or overloaded backpacks. Credit: Harris County Hospital District

If you haven't already purchased a backpack for your kids, you may want to think twice about which one you buy.

Poorly used or overloaded backpacks may lead to neck, shoulder or back pain as adults, say physical therapists at Quentin Mease Community Hospital in Houston, Texas. Nationwide, about 10,000 shool-age children annually visit doctors or emergency centers complaining of backpack-related injuries.

Dana Tew Jr., doctor of physical therapy and program manager at the hospital, believes backpack education consists of three areas: recognition when a backpack is too heavy, identification of desirable backpack features and instructions in the proper way to pack and wear a backpack.

How do you know if your child's backpack is too heavy? The American Physical Therapy Association and American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommend these weight limits:

A 60-pound child should carry a maximum of 5 pounds; 60- to 75-pound child, 10 pounds; 100-pound child, 15 pounds; 125-pound child, 18 pounds.

If you notice that your child is struggling to put on or take off the backpack or there are red marks on shoulders from the straps, changes in posture or he/she feels pain, tingling or numbness in the shoulders, arms or hands, then the backpack is too heavy.

It's best to pack heavier items at the bottom or closer to the back and encourage your children to use both shoulder straps.

When choosing a backpack, opt for one with two contoured and wide padded shoulder straps, hip and chest belts and one that has multiple compartments so weight can be distributed evenly.

Check out new backpacks for kids.

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