Should sunscreen be available at school for students?

Just as Annie once sang, “The sun will come out tomorrow,” the snowy winter is now behind us and the sunshine of warmer days are here. So, just as we are putting away our shovel, we should also be bringing out the sunscreen.

Recently, JAMA Dermatology published two studies concerning sun safety especially as it applies to high school students. The first study addressed concerns about tanning beds, which luckily, show that rates of use are now decreasing among high school students. Among high school students in the United States, the prevalence of indoor tanning decreased from 15.6 in 2009 to 7.3 percent in 2015. While the rate went down from 37.4 percent to 15.2 during this time period for white female teens, researchers pointed out the practice remains more commonplace in this group.

The second study addressed the question about how are we teaching our children about sun safety itself.  Unfortunately,  sun safety is not being taught very often in school, especially in relation to high-school students, according to 2014 data.  Furthermore, it shows that only about 58 percent of teachers allow for adequate time for students to apply sunscreen at school and only about 13 percent of schools made sunscreen available to students.

So what should we do?  Based on recommendations from the American Academy of Dermatology, we should wear sunscreen everyday that we are outside.  Even on a cloudy day, up to 80 percent of the sun’s harmful ways still can affect your skin.  This means that children should be wearing sunscreen when they go outside.  Also, sunscreen should be applied at least every two hours and should be applied 15 minutes prior to going outside. Therefore, if you were to just apply sunscreen prior to school and outside activities occur at noon, the sunscreen would have already lost some of its effectiveness.    

With this in mind, the first step in improving this situation is to speak up. Discuss these issues with your children’s school administrator and hopefully a solution can be found to increase education, time, and availability of sun protection in school.  Who knows, this could even get the ball rolling for possible sunscreen donations for the classroom.


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