Enjoying the outdoors is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, but to assure that your time outside truly benefits your health, you have to protect yourself against the sun’s harmful UV rays. The Surgeon General is calling on leaders in schools, state and local governments, recreation areas and businesses to increase the availability of sun protection in outdoor venues.
A key element in outdoor sun protection for the public is shade. Parks, pools, athletic fields and school grounds can all use more shade trees and sun-protective structures such as pavilions, canopies, awnings and shade sails. Parents and other community members are urged to lobby for such additions to public areas outdoors.
We especially need to do a better job of protecting children, who spend a great deal of time outside, whether during recess or practicing soccer after school. This is where parents can take action, not only by lobbying their school districts to provide shade trees and shade structures on school grounds, but also by making sure that students are allowed to wear hats and apply sunscreen in school. Only a few states, such as California and New York, have laws that allow children to use sunscreen in school, and many schools forbid wearing hats on school grounds. Schools and school districts have to be convinced to reverse these damaging policies. Coaches can help by scheduling periodic sunscreen breaks to allow children to reapply sunscreen, and by encouraging the use of hats during outdoor practices.
Another way to better protect your kids, according to Dr. Ellen Frankel, a pediatric dermatologist, is to be a good sun-safe role model. “We have to lead by example,” she says. “Parents need to wear sunscreen, hats, sunglasses and sun- protective clothing.”
Published on August 27, 2014