Q: My son’s backpack seems really heavy. What can I do to make sure it’s not hurting him?

A: While books and backpacks are an inevitable part of school days, carrying one shouldn’t hurt. A backpack should weigh no more than 10 percent to 20 percent of your child’s weight. For example, if your child weighs 50 pounds, the backpack should weigh no more than 10 pounds.

The backpack’s straps should be wide enough so they don’t cut into your child’s shoulders, and the straps should be worn on both shoulders. The backpack should also be worn fairly snug across your child’s back. Wearing the backpack loose and low stresses the lower back.

Other options you might consider include messenger bags, which are worn across the chest or backpacks with wheels, so they can be rolled.

For more on back-to-school safety, check out these tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Ben Hoffman, M.D.
Medical Director, OHSU Doernbecher Tom Sargent Children’s Safety Center
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics
OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital