Merck Consumer Care launched the "Making the Sunscreen Grade" program to equip parents with tools to help their children develop lifelong sun habits, including those that protect them from the sun during the school day, with activities like class trips and field days that typically occur this time of year. The need for the program is reinforced by a recent national survey conducted for the brand, where amongst other results nearly two-thirds of Americans did not know that many United States schools have rules and restrictions around the usage of sunscreen, because it is an over-the-counter drug.
Currently, policies about sun protection, including sunscreen application, vary from state to state, and potentially even within school districts. According to the survey, Americans favor using a variety of sun protection methods in school. In fact, two out of three (67%) agree or strongly agree they would like to see schools promote the use of sunglasses, hats and sun-protective clothing during outdoor activities. Additionally, 80% of those surveyed agree or strongly agree that schools should work with parents to make it easy for children to be protected from the sun.
Although parents may be applying sunscreen to their children before they go to school, ideally it should be reapplied by the time a midday recess begins, to help reduce the risk of unsafe sun exposure and sunburns. Some schools only allow sunscreen application with written permission from a child's parent or a physician, or both. Additional reasons for rules around sun protection may include the risk for a potential allergic reaction, the question of school staff applying sunscreen to students, and in some cases, the potential cost of implementing a sun protection program.
"School officials and parents recognize the importance of protecting children from the sun, but they may find policies and regulations tricky to navigate if they aren't well informed about them first," said Ana M. Duarte, MD, division director of Dermatology at Miami Children's Hospital and consultant to Coppertone. "I'm excited to be a part of the 'Making the Sunscreen Grade' program. It educates parents about steps they can take to help protect their children during the day and invites them to partner with their schools to make sun protection and sunscreen reapplication a priority."
The "Making the Sunscreen Grade" program provides tools to help educate parents on the importance of sun protection during the school day and year-round. Starting today, a downloadable sun protection guide is available in English and Spanish at www.coppertone.com. Beginning May 1, the guide was distributed to a half-million households across 10 United States regions. It offers tips parents can use to make sun protection a priority, including the following steps:
- Get the facts. Ask your school administrator for more information on your district's policy around sunscreen and what (if any) sun protection methods are permitted. Policies can differ, so you may want to ask if sunscreen, hats or sunglasses are allowed during outdoor activities and if any permission is necessary.
- Take action. Some schools only allow sunscreen usage with written permission from a child's parent and/or physician. Ask your school administrator and/or your child's pediatrician for guidance and make sure to get a doctor's note, if necessary. You can also work with your school to craft a sunscreen-reapplication program, keeping in mind that sunscreen must be kept out of the reach of children.
- Be prepared. Sun sense begins at home. Dress your kids in sun-protective clothing and make sunscreen application part of your morning ritual before your kids go outside and go to school. Talk to your kids—Remind your kids to practice sun-savvy behaviors at school, such as seeking shade and drinking plenty of water during recess and other outdoor activities.
- Stay connected. Creating a sun-smart school environment should include partnering with parents, teachers, school nurses and administrators. In some cases, simply initiating a conversation to learn more about sun protection may remind others of its importance. Consider it a potential topic for your next PTA meeting.
More survey findings
The survey also uncovered data on what steps people favor and believe are reasonable for protecting children from the sun during the school day. These findings include:
- Sixty-eight percent agree or strongly agree that they would like to see sun protection education incorporated into the school curriculum.
- Eighty-eight percent feel that it is a reasonable step to allow children to wear hats, sunglasses and sun-protective clothing when outside during the school day.
- Eighty-six percent said that arranging school grounds to provide shaded areas for recess and outdoor play is reasonable.
- About two in five of Americans (44%) believe it is a reasonable step to require an authorization note from both a parent and a doctor to reapply sunscreen to a child in school.
About the survey
The survey was conducted by ORC International on behalf of Merck Consumer Care, among a representative sample of 1,007 adults ages 18 and older. The survey was fielded over the phone between March 7 and 10, 2013.
- Merck Consumer Care, the makers of Coppertone® with ORC International. Survey of 1,007 Adults Across The US. 7 – 10 March 2013.
- Geller AC, Zwirn J, Rutsch L, Gorham SA, Viswanath V, Emmons KM. Multiple Levels of Influence in the Adoption of Sun Protection Policies in Elementary Schools in Massachusetts. Arch Dermatol. 2008;144(4):491-496. doi:10.1001/archderm.144.4.491. Available from www.archderm.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=419634.