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Monday, July 6th, 2015
When I was little, I absolutely loved going to summer camp. My friends and I spent hours playing tag, making crafts, and exploring the woods of New Hampshire (with adult supervision, of course!) In fact, some of my favorite childhood memories now come from those hot July afternoons.
So I was saddened to see this news story about counselors at summer camps who aren’t allowed to apply sunscreen to the kids. They can only remind the campers to put it on, and “guide them in the process.” This is going on in several different states; for example, some Colorado camps say that staff members are only allowed to apply soap, water, or Band-Aids—and that’s it. Maryland had a comparable policy, but enough complaints from parents (and the American Academy of Dermatology) forced the state to change the rules—now parents must sign a permission slip to allow counselors to apply sunscreen to their kids. This is also the case in New York, but it turns out many of these camps don’t understand the rules. Even crazier: Before 2013, New York state law prohibited children from carrying sunscreen at school or camp, because it was considered a drug. Now, the policy requires that parents send in written permission for kids to be allowed sunscreen.
I do understand the fear behind these rules. The last thing camps want is for inappropriate touching to happen, so it’s easiest to just completely ban the behavior all together. Then there will be no parental complaints (or lawsuits) to worry about.
It’s a nice thought, but I don’t think these camps and lawmakers factored in the complaints they’d get from parents when their children come home with sunburns all over. How could a 5-year-old child be expected to make sure she covers her whole body with sunscreen? Even as an adult, I can struggle with reaching all my exposed skin, after all. The likelihood that a child will suffer a serious burn is far greater than the risk of any inappropriate conduct—and it only takes one blistering sunburn to potentially double her lifetime risk of melanoma. To me, that’s not worth it. These kids need an adult to help them with sunscreen, end of story.
If your child goes to a camp that won’t help him with sunscreen, it seems that your best bet is to make a stink about it. Let them know that these policies are dangerous. I’m encouraged by the fact that some of these states have been listening to the complaints and switching to permission slips instead of outright bans. Hopefully next summer, we’ll be hearing far fewer of these stories.
Chrisanne Grise is an assistant editor covering kids’ health and entertainment at Parents. She wishes she could still go to summer camp. Follow her on Twitter @xanne.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
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Wednesday, August 6th, 2014
Every summer I have the same problem: My children, who attend a day camp at our town pool, get way too much sun, particularly on their face. I’ve begged the counselors, the camp director, and my girls themselves to please reapply frequently. (Constantly’s more like it, since they’re in and out of a pool all day.) I’ve tried a variety of sunscreen sticks, and they wear hats, and the director has made sure that on especially sunny days, the girls spend more time in the shade. Everyone takes it seriously, and yet the girls still often come home with pinker faces than I’m comfortable with.
As we explained in our most recent story about sun safety, the best sunscreen contains zinc oxide, but my kids–particularly my almost-9-year-old–understandably feel self-conscious arriving at camp with a bright white face. And I am never not in a rush getting them to camp and catching my train to work, so any face sunscreen I use has to blend in quickly. So a zinc-based sunscreen hasn’t been an option.
Then a tube of ZBlok sunscreen landed on my desk. ZBlok contains clear zinc. It protects against UVA (aging) and UVB (burning) rays. It doesn’t sting. And it rubs in easily! The lotion goes on more clear than the stick, so I need to spend a bit more time than usual rubbing it in. But it’s more than worth it: This past week has been the first where I haven’t cringed at least once upon seeing my children’s faces after camp.
You’re probably wondering how much it costs. A 4-oz. tube is $14.95; a 2-oz. tube and a stick each cost $9.95. (Shipping is free.) $10 for a sunscreen stick is about twice what I’ve been paying all summer, but then again, those products weren’t doing the trick for us anyway.
This discovery came just in time, as we’re going on a beach vacation on Saturday. Now that I’m the one in charge of the sunscreen all day, I’m so relieved to at last have the right tool in my arsenal!
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Friday, July 11th, 2014
Yes, just the other day we said not to use it. And if that precaution makes you feel better, by all means go ahead. But for parents like me, and my college roommate who asked my advice the other day because spray sunscreen is the only kind her son will tolerate, there’s no need to feel bad if you continue to use it. I say this after asking Wendy Sue Swanson, M.D., pediatrician, mom, and melanoma survivor, who wrote our most recent story on sun safety. She’s passionate about the topic, so hers is an opinion we especially trust.
There’s no definitive proof yet that it’s harmful (the Consumer Reports story from earlier this week is based on a 2011 announcement by the FDA that it’s studying the effects of spray sunscreen on children; no conclusion has been reached). So ultimately, says Dr. Swanson, it’s a matter of risk/benefit: “I still believe the best sunscreen is the one you like, as data shows you’ll use it more. And really, the best sunscreen is the one put on early and reapplied often. But we need to take new evidence and information seriously. So if you plan to continue to use spray sunscreens, mitigate risks.” Here are Dr. Swanson’s three tips on how to do that:
1. Spray it only outside
2. Only use it away from the face
3. Have kids close their eyes and mouth and hold their breath while spraying it
Photo: Small boy crawling towards water at the beach via Shutterstock.
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Thursday, June 19th, 2014
My mom will tell you she’s “allergic to the sun.”
But this wasn’t always the case. She grew up basking in the Florida sun. Those days, however, caught up with her when I was in elementary school. Doctors found basal cell carcinoma (BCC), the most common form of skin cancer, on her nose.
I remember coming home one day in first grade to my mom’s face covered in gauze following her first surgery. “She looks like a mummy,” I would tell my friends on the playground, as I thought of my mom in pain.
With the first day of summer just days away, beach day invitations are starting to roll in. With every response I give, I think of my mom and the subsequent surgeries she’s undergone to remove more BCCs from her face. And when I pack my beach bag, I’ll think of a new study published in Nature on June 11.
The Institute of Cancer Research found sunscreen inadequately protects from melanoma. Researchers found mice exposed to UV rays still suffered damage to the p53 gene despite having sunscreen on. The p53 gene typically helps defend skin from UV rays, and when it’s damaged by the sun’s radiation, risk of melanoma forming increases. Sunscreen is essential because it helps slow impairment to this gene; however, its sun defense isn’t absolute. That’s why it’s key to take precautions beyond SPF to guard us from the harmful effects of the sun.
Nowadays, my mom has changed her sun protection habits. You’ll find her decked out in her favorite cowboy hat, wraparound sunglasses and long-sleeved cover-up dress. She’s a pro at finding the shadiest spot at the pool or beach and highest SPF on the market.
And by her side, you’ll find me wearing the biggest, floppiest hat and Jackie O shades.
Test your sun protection habits with this quick quiz!
Image: Mother And Daughter Under Beach Umbrella Putting On Sun Cream (ShutterStock)
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The Parents Perspective
Tuesday, June 10th, 2014
We all know how important it is to wear sunscreen, especially during the summer. Children are particularly vulnerable; it only takes one blistering sunburn to potentially double your kid’s lifetime risk of melanoma.
So I was shocked to hear about the North East Independent School District in Texas banning sunscreen from 72 schools. Local mom Christy Riggs is protesting the policy after her daughter suffered a bad burn from a field trip. The students were out in the sun for more than six hours, but the school district argues that sunscreen can cause allergic reactions, so it must be treated like a medicine–which means only kids with a doctor’s note are allowed to use it at school.
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I understand the good intentions behind this decision. Allergies are a hot issue right now, and if students were to share sunscreen, it’s possible that a few might end up with reactions. But the risks of all the students suffering from severe burns while being out in the sun without protection are far higher. Applying the lotion before school is not enough, as it will wear off after a few hours. It seems absurd to focus on healthier school lunches and increasing kids’ physical activity, but then put children in jeopardy of serious damage from the sun’s rays.
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Surely, there’s a safer, healthier way to handle this situation. Many schools simply ask for parental consent to apply sunscreen to kids. Others provide a specific sunscreen and let families send in their own if they want a different kind. I hope the school district reexamines their policy at the end of the year and comes up with a better method. Until then, San Antonio parents will need to apply sunscreen generously in the mornings, and dress their children in proper clothes to protect bare skin outdoors.
Do you support the sunscreen ban?
Image: Girl anoints her face via Shutterstock
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