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Nurse wants to take the load off kids' back

LAND O'LAKES — National School Backpack Awareness Day was Sept. 17 and for many, the day came and went with hardly a blip.

But not for Donna Johnson, a school nurse at Pine View Middle, Denham Oaks Elementary, Countryside Montessori and Imagine Charter schools.

"Backpack safety is sort of my passion," said Johnson, who has held Backpack Safety clinics for students in the past. And she wrote an article all about it that was distributed recently in some school newsletters throughout the county.

Since she started working in the schools in 1994, Johnson has seen plenty of "don'ts" when it comes to backpacks. While she's quick to debunk the myth that carrying a heavy backpack can cause scoliosis, she said carrying too much weight or wearing that backpack the wrong way can cause plenty of aches and pains.

First and foremost, Johnson advises parents to check their child's backpack to make sure students aren't carrying any unnecessary books. Middle schools such as Pine View distribute a set of books for home and a set for the classroom so students don't have to tote books back and forth. Many schools now offer the choice of a traditional textbook or a CD for students to take home.

Backpack safety is a definite concern that students and parents should be aware of, said Johnson.

"Doing the wrong thing can lead to lots of aches, pains, strains, muscle spasms and it can lead to poor posture," she said.

Backpack tips

• Choose the right backpack for the student's size. Try it on in the store to be sure it fits properly.

• Do not purchase messenger bags that hang on one shoulder or backpacks with wheels that present a tripping hazard.

• Opt for a traditional backpack with wide padded straps, a waist belt, padded back and multiple compartments so the weight carried can be distributed evenly.

• The student should wear the backpack properly, NOT on one shoulder. The backpack should fit high on the back and the student should be able to walk with a straight back, NOT hunched over.

• Weigh the backpack on your bathroom scale. Be sure that the maximum weight is not more than 15 percent of the student's body weight.

• Don't carry unnecessary books or items.

• Parents who are concerned about the amount or the weight of books and items teachers have assigned to be brought to and from school should contact the school nurse or administration to try to work something out.

Nurse wants to take the load off kids' back 09/30/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 2, 2008 3:25pm]

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