Sunscreen Regulated Like a Drug in Schools

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Students may return to school in the fall, but that doesn't mean much in South Florida. It's very much summer almost year round here, a state of affairs which should make protection from the sun an important part of our daily health regimen.

But many school districts treat sunscreen as an over-the-counter drug, like Tylenol or Motrin, and require parents, sometimes even doctors, to authorize use.

Florida guidelines from 2007 suggest schools require a physician's signature.

Coppertone sunscreen this week launched a "Making the Sunscreen Grade" program to educate parents about the policies in their school districts. Ideally, the company says, sunscreen should be reapplied during school hours

The American Medical Association adopted a policy in June that supports "the exemption of sunscreen from over-the-counter medication possession bans in schools" and promotes kids being able to "possess" it without restriction. Melanoma rates, though still rare, are rising in kids, the biggest increase being among adolescent girls ages 15 to 19.

Believe it or not, Broward and Palm Beach County school districts have been smarter and more reasonable than our state in how they treat the uncontrolled substance!

Health Services Specialist for Palm Beach County School District Cathy Burns (yes Burns) said sunscreen was viewed as an over-the-counter medication, but only parents, not doctors, were required to provide a signature to allow students to use it.

Marcia Bynoe, nurse practitioner and Broward County Schools Health Services Director, differed slightly with her statement. "Sunscreen is sunscreen," not an over-the-counter drug like Tylenol, she said. But kids still need their parent's permission because of potential allergies. If a kid is caught red-handed -- but not from a sunburn we presume -- they don't even get expelled!

"We just call the parent to see if they'll allow it," she said.

Parents in Broward and Palm Beach should request a "form for authorization for medication and/or treatment" to make sure their child can "possess" the stuff, said Bynoe.

Coppertone hadn't returned requests for comment on the program as of this posting.

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