A mom in Tacoma, Washington, isn't the only one seeing red after her two children received serious sunburns at school—the result, she says, of laws in almost every state that restrict teachers from applying sunscreen without written permission or a doctor's note. A prescription for ... sunblock? Moms everywhere are now questioning a law that doesn't seem based on common sense—and fails to take into account that even one bad burn can raise the lifetime risk for skin cancer.
Do you know your daycare provider's policy about keeping kids safe in the sun? Here's what some moms discovered when they put their care providers to the test.
As soon as she read about the two girls being burned in Washington State, mom Amy Dillard-Macon, of Nashua, New Hampshire, talked to her child's daycare. The director pulled out a medical form Amy says she had completely forgotten she signed off on when enrolling daughter Emma, 3, at the privately-run center last fall.
"On the same piece of paper that asked if I gave permission for the center to provide basic first aid was a small check off box stating that I gave my permission for them to apply sunscreen. Thankfully, I had checked it. But what if I had overlooked this? Would they have called it to my attention—or just left her skin exposed?" Dillard-Macon wonders.
Another mom, Wendy Mason, from Gainsville, Florida, says sun safety at her children's daycare has never been an issue. "I heard about this mom and her kids and felt so bad. On the other hand, I think part of it is the location. Where we live, daycare just automatically applies sunscreen when they go out, no questions asked. Maybe I've just been lucky, or it's a Florida thing—this is the Sunshine State, after all!"
But Stacy Mills from Rochester, New York, says she's glad her daycare has a strict policy—her child is allergic to certain ingredients in sunscreen. "They don't require a doctor's note, but do require a note from the parent agreeing to have one of the workers apply the center's generic brand of sunscreen. I am relieved that I was made aware of this because my child would have had a horrible reaction," says Mills. "I sent in our allergen-free sunblock with a big thank you note for paying attention to this issue."
Protecting skin from sunburn involves more than just applying sunscreen. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, parents and caregivers can keep kids from getting burned by taking such steps as:
For babies: Avoid sun exposure or dress infants in lightweight long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and brimmed hats that shade the neck. For exposed areas, caregivers should apply sunscreen (at least 15 SPF) to areas such as the infant's face and the back of the hands.
For toddlers: Cover up by wearing a hat with a 3-inch brim or a bill facing forward, sunglasses that offer protection against both UVA and UVB rays, and cotton clothing with a tight weave. On both sunny and cloudy days, use a sunscreen that's at least SPF 15 and reapply sunscreen every two hours, or after swimming or sweating.
And there's one last piece of sun safety advice that's good for babies, toddlers, and grownups: Limit outdoor exposure between 10 AM and 4 PM, when the sun's rays are strongest—and stay in the shade whenever possible.
Common sense, right?