Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Is it inappropriate to help kids apply sunscreen at camp?

Most parents worry about the risk of summer sunburn for their kiddos. They fret over which brand of sunscreen to use, which formulation - chemicals or zinc oxide? - and how often to apply the stuff.

But the state of Maryland has them pretty much beat on the act of over-thinking the issue.

In a memo to youth camp operators last month, the state's department of health and mental hygiene issued a detailed memo on the dos and don'ts of sunscreen application for kids. Yes, regulating the Coppertone.

Story continues below advertisement

The memo, obtained by the Washington Post, said children should generally apply sunscreen on their own. And "if assistance in application is needed, camp staff should limit touching the camper as much as possible."

Then, the memo got a little hysterical. In bold font, it read: "Under no circumstances should campers assist each other in the application of sunscreen where touch is required in the application process."

As TodayMoms writer Rita Rubin notes, "It had never occurred to me that applying sunscreen was the first step down the slippery slope toward pedophilia or an orgy, but that's what all this talk about touching seemed to suggest."

One parent told the Post he was surprised to receive a permission slip about the policy from the camp he enrolled his two children in.

"The camp is just doing what the state ordered them to do," Paul Basken said. "But this can't be serious. I mean, if I didn't feel safe about the camp, I just wouldn't send my kids there."

As Ms. Rubin writes, reaction from parents and dermatologists to the initial Washington Post story resulted in a paring back of the policy.

The new policy, though, still requires parents to give written permission to apply sunscreen to their kids.

Story continues below advertisement

How does Maryland's sunscreen policy measure up to other jurisdictions? "I was unable to find any other state health department with a similar regulation, although a number of individual camps scattered around the country do require that parents sign permission forms for sunscreen application," Ms. Rubin writes.

Is this brouhaha over sunscreen merely an example of a bureaucracy with an over-active imagination? Or is this kind of uber-caution becoming the status quo among those who work with or parent children?

Report an error Licensing Options
About the Author

Tralee Pearce has been a reporter at The Globe and Mail since 1999, starting as a writer in the paper’s Style section. She joined the new Life section for its launch in 2007. She covers parenting and family issues for the daily section. More

Comments are closed

We have closed comments on this story for legal reasons. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.