How much weight should kids carry on their backpacks?

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I overheard this conversation over one radio/tv show that made me gulp in disbelief. Probably pressured by parent’s questions regarding how much weight should kids carry on their bags going to school, the lady anchor asked one orthopedic surgeon from a known celebrity hospital in Manila. Frankly, I found the good surgeon’s answer a bit complicated and technical.

The simple answer should have been within 10-15% of the kids body weight, assuming that kid use a backpack to carry his/her school stuff. Beyond this carrying weight “cap” the kid will probably experience back strains and muscle strains NOT a slipped disc or arthritis as the anchors are trying to insinuate. Of course if you let this kids carry tables or chairs regularly, then probably!

In choosing backpacks for your school kids take note of that weight limit and the following important pointers:

  1. Find a “lightweight” pack, usually made of water repellent (not necessarily waterproof) material but not leather. Leather weighs heavier.
  2. Get a double strapped well padded pack. Find  a pack with a well padded back. This will ease back pressure a bit.
  3. It’s preferable to have multi-compartment packs as they promote organization. But make sure the heavier objects are placed nearer the kids back so they won’t stoop back often and get back strains.
  4. Waist belts keep the pack from “jiggling” on their back, preventing weight shifting that hurts their back.
  5. Don’t get bags that are too large (meaning the bag “material” is bigger than the kids back) nor buy packs higher than his neck. With large bags, comes the tendency of kids to just load everything in there.
  6. Lastly, dont buy packs with too much plastic and paints on the outside. Some of them easily peel off and contain lead materials.

Why do I know this stuff? Well I’m an orthopedic surgeon and a frequent mountaineer/backpacker too. We use this “guides” to pick our bags and gears. This will at least prevent back sprains and strains from carrying to heavy stuff.

For more ideas on buying and choosing your packs wisely, visit this site (www.kidshealth.org). They’ve got more tips for kids’ backpacks.

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Dr. Remo-tito Aguilar co-founded #HealthXPh. A board certified orthopedic surgeon, he is previously Chief of Clinics at St. Louis Hospital in Tacurong City and a consultant in Orthopedics at the Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City. Dr. Aguilar is a healthcare social media evangelist and writes his medical musings at The Cast & Curious (www.remomd.com).

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