Lifestyle

FAMILY MATTERS: Back-to-school backpack basics begin with the fit

When it comes to backpack safety, most people tend to think about injuries caused by a heavy backpack or one worn improperly. However, there are other dangers associated with backpacks and caution should be used.

Backpacks come in all shapes and sizes and can be a handy tool for students or adults. When worn correctly, with weight evenly distributed across the back and shoulders, backpacks can be safer and more effective than using a purse or briefcase. But many people wear overly loaded backpacks slung over one shoulder, which can pose problems with posture and lead to back issues.

In addition to the physical strain backpacks can cause, they can be a danger in other ways. Many people fail to recognize how much space a backpack can take up. Entering the tight quarters of a school bus or commuting on a train or bus means a bulky backpack can knock into other people. If that backpack is full of heavy, cumbersome books or even a laptop computer, an inadvertent bump by the pack can cause injuries. Also, backpacks taken off and placed in bus aisles can be a tripping hazard.

Students also can be injured if a heavy pack falls on them. Children tucking backpacks into lockers or classroom cubbies may find that they slide out and hit another classmate.

Backpacks change the way individuals walk. Because the person is carrying around extra weight, he or she may lose balance or trip and fall, especially when going down steps.

To avoid these secondary hazards from backpacks, consider these tips.

• Don’t overload a backpack. Carry only what is necessary. If too many books are the issue, parents should talk to the school administrators and teachers to reach a happy medium regarding textbook usage.

• When on the bus, safely store the backpack on a lap or under the seat. Be sure straps or the pack itself is not extending into the aisle.

• Avoid rolling backpacks, which can be difficult to roll. Some schools ban these styles because of tripping hazards.

• Recognize how much space the backpack takes up when worn. Be conscious of others when turning around or entering a confined space.

• Hold on to stair rails and do not run with a heavy backpack to help avoid slips and falls.

• Choose a lightweight backpack. Canvas backpacks are generally lighter in weight than leather backpacks. Do not add extra weight unnecessarily.

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