It’s a hot, sunny day. Your progeny is going on a fieldtrip to a literal field, where she will likely find little shade. Can you throw a bottle of sunscreen in her backpack with strict instructions to slather it on? That depends on where you live.
Because the Food and Drug Administration considers sunscreen an over-the-counter drug, most schools around the country do as well, reports The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Stateline blog.
Much like other things — allergy medications or even ibuprofen — children can’t bring these products to school without a doctor’s note, and often they have to bring it to the nurse to even use it.
So while you could load your kid up with sunscreen before they leave, they won’t be able to reapply at any point during the long school day — potentially a big problem if they’re outside.
Some states are working to change this with legislation, however: Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Utah, and Washington have all enacted laws in the last four months that allow children to use sunscreen both in school and at after-school activities. In Arizona, New York, And Washington, the laws also allow sunscreen at summer camps.
California, New York, Oregon, and Texas already lifted the sunscreen ban in schools. Some states may vary in their rules on a county-by-county basis. For example: Public schools in Arlington, VA have an OTC medical exemption for lip balm and sunscreen.
When it comes to sunscreen use for kids, “parents, I think, are the best decision-makers,” State Sen. Terry Burton, a co-sponsor of the Mississippi bill to promote sun safety, told Stateline. “The school should not interfere with that decision that a parent makes to protect their child.”
It’s also important that kids are able to put on their own sunscreen, notes Rhode Island Rep. David Bennett, sponsor of a bill that has passed the lower house and is now in the Senate.
“The kids are impatient. They’ve got 20 minutes. They’re not going to stand in line for 20 minutes” for a teacher to apply it, he says. “By the time she gets done with the last kid, the 20 minutes is going to be over.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, dermatologists would love it if kids could bring sunscreen to school. That includes a coalition of medical groups — which includes the American Academy of Dermatology Association and the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery Association — that has been pushing for sunscreen legislation.
The surgery group wrote model legislation and set aside $30,000 in grants for dermatology organizations around the country to lobby for the bill, while the dermatology association also provided advocacy funding to state groups, Stateline notes.
Getting four state laws passed in three months can be attributed to the fact that this is an issue that affects folks on both sides of the aisle, these groups say.
“Everybody sees that kids need to be protected from skin cancer and they should be protected with sunscreen,” Terry Cronin, a dermatologist and head of the advocacy working group for the dermatologic surgery society, told Stateline. “Everybody sees that kids need to be protected from skin cancer and they should be protected with sunscreen.”
It’s not like anyone wants kids to get burned, but there are those who have voiced objections to some of these measures. The Rhode Island Certified School Nurse Teachers Associations, for one: The group thinks sunscreen should be kept out of the classrooms because other kids could have allergies to the ingredients in some products.
“We’re not against sunscreen,” Diane Kowal, the group’s president, told Stateline. “There just needs to be language to protect everyone, from the person putting it on to the kids sharing it.”