For the past several years, spray sunscreens have proven to be a handy – and “no contact” – way to apply sun protection on kids. A recent recommendation from Consumer Reports, however, has prompted many summer camps and other youth organizations to re-think their procedures for keeping children safe in the sun. We’re referring to a July 2 article on ConsumerReports.org that advises against using spray sunscreen on children. The Consumer Reports article states that the Food and Drug Administration is investigating the possible risks associated with inhaling the sprayed product.
Our Praesidium phone lines are lighting up with calls regarding the safe “manual” application of sunscreens, so we thought we would share our recommendations here.
The best approach is prevention, so you want to eliminate or at least reduce the instances where a counselor or other staff member, volunteer, or even another child helps a child apply sunscreen. To reduce this exposure, some day camps have set up stations at the entrance to encourage parents to apply sunscreen to their children as they drop them off for the day.
But what about overnight camps or situations where sunscreen must be reapplied with no parents around? This is where good procedures come into play. First, have parents sign a permission slip to give counselors the OK to help kids apply liquid sun lotion. It’s always a good idea to keep parents in the loop regarding your camp’s procedures regarding appropriate and inappropriate physical interactions.
Then, make it part of the culture that kids apply their own sunblock as much as possible. Train staff members to monitor kids’ sunscreen application and prompt them through verbal directions such as, “Does everyone have sunscreen on their legs? and “How about the tops of your feet?” You especially want kids to apply sunscreen to those “hotspot” areas that they should be able to reach themselves, such as the upper thighs, stomach, and shoulders.
For those places where kids can’t reach – like their back – establish procedures that allow staff members to apply sunscreen to children only in front of other campers and other staff members. So, for instance, you never want to allow a single staff member to apply sunscreen to one camper alone in a bathroom.
So let’s recap the steps:
• When possible, have kids arrive with sunscreen already on or encourage parents to apply sunscreen when they arrive.
• When this isn’t possible, get signed permission slips regarding sunscreen application by a counselor.
• Counselors will verbally prompt kids to put on their own sunscreen.
• When kids can’t reach certain areas, counselors will apply sunscreen only with others present.
We will continue to monitor the spray-sunscreen recommendation from Consumer Reports and let you know if they continue to frown on using this type of sun protection on kids.
We at Praesidium wish you a happy and safe summer.