Summer is winding down and kids all over the country are gearing up to begin a new school year. Parents may be tempted to think that once summer vacation has ended, there isn’t as much of a need to worry about sun safety and using sun protection. However, just because summer is almost over, that doesn’t mean the sun is going on vacation! It is just as important to protect our kids from sun damage during the school year as it is during the dog days of summer.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, about 23 percent of lifetime sun exposure occurs by age 18 and one or more blistering sunburns in childhood or adolescence more than doubles a person’s chances of developing melanoma later in life. During childhood it is up to parents to protect kids from skin damage caused by sun exposure. During the school year, it is also up to the schools and teachers to help reduce exposure but unfortunately, most schools do not have a sun safety policy and many schools ban the use of sunscreen as part of their policies against kids using medications or over the counter drugs at school. So what can parents do to ensure their children are protected while at school? There are actually several ways parents can promote sun safety at school.
- Talk with the school principal to find out whether sunscreen is allowed at school and if it is not, ask what can be done to allow it. If is a school policy, it may only take parents requesting that their children be allowed to use sunscreen to get the policy changed. If is a school district policy, it may be necessary to approach the school board.
- Apply sunscreen to your child’s exposed skin before school starts each day and have the child reapply before going outside for recess (if the school permits).
- If the school bans sunscreen, you can dress your child in tightly woven, dark or bright colored fabrics that cover the arms and legs.
- If your school allows, have your child wear a hat while outside. A hat with a wide brim is the best protection but even a baseball cap can help.
- Purchase clothing that has sun protection built into the fabric.
- For clothing that does not have sun protection built in, you can make it “sun safe” by washing the clothes with SunGuard, a laundry aid that gives your clothes an Ultra-Violet Protection Factor (UPF) rating of UPF 30. The product lasts for up to 20 washings.
- Have your child wear sunglasses while outside to protect their eyes.
- Ask the school to provide shaded areas on the playground.
- If your child participates in outdoor sports, plan for sun protection during practices and games.
Following these tips will help ensure sun safety success throughout the school year and all year long.
Tamara Walker, R.N., aka “MomRN”, is the mom of two teenagers, a registered nurse, a child safety expert and instructor, and host of the “Ask MomRN Show”. Her websites are http://www.MomRN.com and http://www.blogtalkradio.com/FlyLady.