Backpack safety: What parents need to know

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(CNN) – Textbooks, notebooks and pencil boxes are just a few things a child may have in their backpack every day, but carrying all that weight can actually hurt them.

Back pain isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about youth, but Dr. Nicholas Fletcher of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta says he sees a rise in patients at the beginning of every school year.

“It’s remarkable how many children I see in my practice for back pain,” Fletcher said.

Fletcher says the first thing parents can do to prevent back injury is to make sure their child is using both backpack straps. He explained that when only one strap is worn, a child has to lean to one side to prevent it from falling off, straining their back.

How the bag is actually packed is important too, according to Fletcher. He said children shouldn’t carry more than 10-20% of their body weight. Heavier items, like books, should be packed closest to the child’s back, while lightweight things, like a notebook, should go up front.

Fletcher also said adjusting the backpack’s strap lengths so that the bottom of the bag sits right at the waist line is important. Parents should also go through backpacks every now and then to make sure they’re not being overloaded.

If a child does develop back pain, Fletcher says to have them rest from physical activity for a few days, stretch and take some ibuprofen. If the paid sticks around, parents should take the child to see a doctor.

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