When shopping for back to school supplies, make sure to stop by the sunscreen aisle. Summer may be coming to an end, but that doesn’t mean you should forget about sun protection. Children in grades K-8 usually have outdoor recess between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. when the sun is especially intense. One blistering sunburn in childhood can more than double a person’s chances of developing melanoma later in life. So while getting your children ready for school, make sure to remind them about the importance of applying sunscreen before leaving the house and seeking the shade when outdoors.
Although sunscreen is an essential part of a complete sun protection regimen, you may need to check with administrators before sending your children to school with a bottle. Many states prohibit the use of sunscreen during school hours, and legislation varies from state to state. Some schools require a doctor’s prescription, some provide students with sunscreen, and some schools don’t allow it at all.
“Sunscreen use has not been universally recognized in schools, but it is an important health issue,” said Perry Robins, MD, President of The Skin Cancer Foundation. “Our goal is to educate the public about the importance of sun protection, and if our schools can adopt a few key sun safety policies, we will be one step closer to combating the skin cancer epidemic.”
Some states have made progressive efforts to allow sunscreen in schools. For example, California state legislators recently signed into law a bill permitting students to bring sunscreen to school without a doctor’s prescription and loosened the restrictions on wearing hats and other protective clothing. “Children should be able to use sunscreen during school hours,” said Dr. Robins. “Such changes will have to be made on a local, state and nationwide basis.” In the meantime, contact your State Department of Education or your local school district to find out if your child’s school has any sunscreen restrictions.
No matter what the rules are at school, it is important to remember that sun safety begins at home. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends following these tips:
Dress children in sun-protective clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
Apply broad-spectrum, SPF 15+ sunscreen to exposed skin every morning.
If permitted by your school, teach children to reapply sunscreen if going outdoors for recess.
Teach kids to look for shaded areas in which to play.
Protect yourself and lead by example.
Children should enjoy the outdoors safely. Learn how to protect your children and teach them how to protect themselves. For more information, visit www.skincancer.org or call 1.800.SKIN.490.