Why Do We Need A Doctor’s Note to Apply Sunscreen?

Written by: Kerry Frommer Fierstein, MD, FAAP

Parents make decisions for their children all the time. It is part of the job. Breast or bottle? Cloth or plastic? And that is just the beginning. By the time a child enters school the decisions a parent has made number well into the thousands.

Medical decisions are just part of the job description as well. Is my child sick? Does she need to go to the doctor? Should I put ointment on his cut?

Yet as soon as that child walks into a New York school, that same parent can’t approve the use of sunscreen on a school trip unless a physician signs off on it.

This upsets me on so many levels.

As a parent, I don’t understand why I can’t ask the school nurse to give my child a simple over-the-counter medication – the same medication I bought without a prescription and gave my daughter before she got on the school bus.

As a pediatrician, I can’t imagine a circumstance where sunscreen or bacitracin would be bad for a child, unless there is an allergy, which I depend on the parent to give me this kind of history anyway.

In my busy home life, I don’t need the unnecessary procedures involved with getting the doctor to sign off on over-the-counter medications.

In my busy practice life, I don’t need yet one more unnecessary piece of paper demanding my attention.

As a parent and a physician, I would like the schools and the government to remember that parents make health decisions every day, decisions much more important than sunscreen, bug spray and Tylenol.

Dr. Fierstein is a practicing pediatrician. Born in the Bronx and raised in Queens, Dr. Kerry Frommer Fierstein is a New Yorker all the way. She works at Pediatric Health Associates, PC, a division of Allied Pediatrics of New York.


5 thoughts on “Why Do We Need A Doctor’s Note to Apply Sunscreen?

  1. Unfortunately, the schools do it to cover their liability and place the blame on pediatricians. Our medically genius level legislature also passes laws that are good as sound bytes but terrible in reality and terrible in policy.

  2. Pingback: Schoolteachers Are Awesome – School Health Policies, Less So | Survivor: Pediatrics

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  4. I am a parent. My child (4) is in daycare, and has been vomiting lactose milk, any foods with cheese, and sausage served at the daycare. I sent a letter stating the foods that he must not eat. I do not understand why the letter was sent back me asking that it comes from his doctor instead. I am livid. I am his MOTHER!

    I do not need a doctor, who has not evaluated him, nor needs to, to authorize, and overrule my wishes, to be the final say in this matter.

    It is common sense, that if he is vomiting certain foods – even right there at school, that I am capable, worthy, and even obligated as a parent to make this decision.

    Furthermore, suppose I simply did not want him to eat certain foods for religious or preferential reasons. Would a doctor’s note still be needed????????!!!!!!!!!

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