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three children in book bags return to school post-winter

Winter break may be a time of freedom for school-aged children, but it also raises its fair share of safety concerns. Parents and kids must maintain the same cautious behavior when school picks back up again in January. A new school semester presents a wide array of challenges, as many people return to their old routines after some weeks off. And with winter still raging, the threat of illness, specifically the cold and flu, still looms over most families. Here are four tips to starting every new semester off safely and successfully:

"Overloaded backpacks cause 22,000 injuries per year."

1. Consider the backpack
Backpacks are a genuine concern for many parents, as they fear that pounds of books and school supplies can injure their children. And rightly so: According to figures from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, overloaded backpacks led to 22,000 sprains, dislocations and strains in 2013 alone. To prevent further incidences, the National Safety Council suggested a few guidelines. For one, a backpack should never hang more than 4 inches below the child's waist. You also want to buy a backpack with multiple pockets and chest straps, each of which help evenly distribute the weight. Finally, no backpack should ever weigh more than 10 percent of the child's total body mass.

2. Always play it safe
For many children, the playground is the best part of school. However, these oases of fun can also be dangerous. Per statistics from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, playgrounds injure more than 200,000 children each year, usually through falls or stumbles. Before your child hits the monkey bars, it's a good idea to walk through the school's playground yourself. According to the NSC, be on the lookout for several key features. For instance, all pieces of equipment need a 6-foot surrounding safety zone. Also, make sure there aren't any tripping hazards, like rocks or random foliage. Finally, pay attention to any rusting or sharp edges, both of which are especially dangerous.

3. Practice coming and going
Depending on the age of your child, he or she may be responsible for getting to and from school. Though many children safely ride the school bus each school day, that doesn't mean these vehicles are accident-proof. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 1,214 fatal school-transportation-related accidents between 2004 and 2013. That's why it's so important your child knows proper school bus safety precautions, like staying seated at all times and using crosswalks whenever entering or exiting the bus. Some children may also walk or bike to school. Not only must students learn similar rules of the road, but also it's a good idea to hold practice runs with them to help them establish a safe route.

"School buses were involved in 1,214 fatal accidents between 2004 and 2013."

4. Make health a priority
As a rule, parents should schedule a check-up for each child in their family prior to the start of a new school year or semester. And what better place for a physical than your local CareWell Urgent Care center? With facilities across the East Coast, CareWell's team of doctors can make sure your child is healthy and up to date on his or her shots. Plus, CareWell can treat any school-related injuries, like sprained ankles and muscle strains.

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