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Sun safety at school?

May 2007

We have been trying over the last several months to implement some sun-safety changes at our public elementary school, and have been quite frustrated by the effort. Support from the principal and teachers has been lackluster, to say the least, although a number of parents support the effort. Specifically, we are trying to implement a skin cancer awareness campaign (wear hats, use sunscreen, eat your lunch in the shade); and to provide more shade and encourage its use (move tables/benches into the shade, set up umbrellas and raise funds for shade structures to provide more shade). Among other things, we are looking for a cheap-but-good hat we can provide to all students, to encourage more hat wearing. If you have any suggestions for hats, sunscreen types, awareness campaign tips, tales from your own schools, we would love to hear about it. We have mined the web for information already, and made contact with state agencies, etc., but we are interested in hearing from anyone who is working on this issue, who might give us some ideas about how to make progress in the absence of official school/district support.


We lived in Australia last year where all school-aged children are required to wear hats. For elementary school kids, no hat means no recess. I was just thinking about trying to institute some sun safety awareness at my sons school here. I am planning to approach the PTA to purchase hats for sale with the school logo and maybe get the teachers involved (start sun safety early!). Skin cancer is increasing in young people so this is a crtitical time to educate kids about the sun. Good luck and please share your success stories with the rest of us. Hat loving mom
Dude! I don't have specific answers for you, but I want to say good for you! I moved here from NYC last year. Where I used to live, we slathered the kids in sunblock before going outside, even if it was cloudy out (hello, UVB rays). At soccer and little-league games, moms stood at the sidelines with big bottles of No-Ad. I agonized over my sunblock-allergic skin and bought scads of huge hats. My cousin in LA does the same thing, but here in Berkeley, where people are concerned about offgassing plastic and the dangers of soy, everyone ignores the HUGE risk of sun exposure! I guess it's because kids don't get sunburn here, but it's just plain ignorance and denial to think that means they're safe from melanoma later. Thank you! Good for you! Listen to this person, everyone else!
Maybe there's a lack of response in part because children need sunshine in order to make Vitamin D and be healthy? Not scared of the sun
I suspect the reason that you aren't getting a lot of support is that of all the possible ills that PTA moms and dads worry about--junk food, too much TV, food alleries, global warming, bullying/teasing, not enough physical activity--this one seems fairly minor, especially in a mild climate like the Bay Area. I read your post and thought, ''oh great, here we go again, another group of middle class moms worried about something''. We heard a presentation recently at a PTA meeting about this and the person mentioned that skin doctors recommend keeping kids indoors on sunny days (if there is no shade). A dad joked that ''great, then we'll have a bunch of pasty faced overweight kids.'' I think you are fighting the ''who cares'' reaction and there are far more pressing issues for most parents to deal with--putting food on the table, paying bills, getting homework completed, and trying to get their kids to school on time. You can quote a million studies about how all this stuff is bad for us but I think people's eyes just glaze over. Many parents are of the ''let kids be kids'' mindset, even if it means a very small percentage may some day have skin cancer. They'll put sunscreen on them at the beach or before a hike but that's about it. I kind of agree with them. sun lover
We ran in to the same problem at our local school. It was more of an issue because the kids wore uniforms there. Anyway, my wife is a pediatric dermatologist and showed them the studies and they then let him wear a hat at recess. Some of the kids at the school also started to wear hats as did some of the teachers at recess. Needless to say, my kids get sunscreen everyday before school. We did run in to some issues with their friends who are much darker/latino/black/or mediterranean when they come to play, spend the night etc not used to putting on sunscreen. In fact one of my good friends who is black never knew he could get a sunburn until a couple of years ago when he got fried. Now he is a convert. It also helps if it is brought up in health class, science class, or PE as a one day topic. Irish skin
Hi- I was surprised by the lackluster responses you received. I am California born and raised and am super sun savvy. My son's preschool asks that we bring everyone to school with sunblock and they then reapply before heading outdoors. And my son will not head outside without his hat. I think more parents should take the sun more seriously. That said, here are some resources. I grew up in Davis and was particularly impressed by the Sun Safe City Program there.
http://www.sunsafecity.org/pages/417114/index.htm
http://www.shadefoundation.org/index.php
http://www.shadestructures.net/
love the sun but also my skin
Well as you can see from the responses you got, some people are with you and agree it's important and others are not. I don't think you will be terribly successful getting everyone, or even a majority, to change their behavior. Many people probably think ''Well we used to lie out in the sun with baby oil on and I never got cancer'', but they are apparently not aware that the ozone layer was thicker then and it provides less protection now. Anyway, what I recommend is that you work with the PTA rather than the school administration. Focus on making shade more available at your school, rather than trying to get kids to wear hats or parents to remember sunblock (not that these aren't worthy goals, just less likely to be successful.) Now is when many PTAs are allocating their budgets for next year, so if you can get the involved parents to see this as a priority this is a good time. You can approach it as a ''school beautification'' issue as well as a health one. Our elementary school has recently embarked on a ''shade project'', which was originally pitched as a health issue by concerned and involved parents. Our school lacks any shade whatsoever in the main play and outdoor eating areas. In addition to PTA funds, we applied for and received a couple grants including a good-sized one from Lowe's. Another source of potential resources is that the PTA is a partner with the American Cancer Society, so they may have some materials, resources, etc. In short, if you can get the officers of your PTA on board then you don't need to win any opinion polls among all the parents. Good luck! fm
As an adult who has been very careful with sun exposure, it was a real shock to have operations on my face two years apart for melanoma insitu. I am always wondering when and if it will happen again. The damage was the result of sun exposure as a child, summers at the beach and playing outside. It will take adult supervision to establish habits of protection and prevention. This is an educational moment for parents, grandparents, guardians and school educators. Face is a road map
I trained my kids early on with a lot of explanations and never a short-cut around it, to absolutely use sunscreen all the time (every recess before coming out to the playground). My mom had melanoma & we are conscious of it. I always ask my kids' teachers to remind them to apply their sunscreen and the kids know to ask their teachers for help if needed. We never had a problem with it and had full support of our (Joaquin Miller) school. Maria

Sun and swimming for 4 month old

June 2004

We are taking our 4 month old on a vacation and we will be in the sun and water quite a bit. Is it too early to bring her in a chlorinated pool? What kind of diapers should we use? Is it o.k. to use sunscreen? If so, does anyone have a good product to recommend? Thank you! sadie


We took our 3-month old on vacation to San Diego. Our pediatrician recommended Water Babies sunscreen, a hat, and the shade. He told us the baby wasn't old enough to go in the water yet, but that was at 3-months. If your pediatrician says it's okay, you can get special swimming diapers (even at Costco). Have fun!
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