There are plenty of reasons to feel a few jitters about entrusting a child to a secondary caregiver, whether it’s for half an hour or half a day, and whether that person is a friend or relative, babysitter, nanny, or daycare provider.
Parents of children who have been diagnosed with food allergies, however, have another concern on top of the rest. A diagnosis of a serious allergy is a scary thing, and feeling secure in an understanding of that allergy, and of the emergency response plan can help many families start to feel more secure again.
Adding a secondary caregiver to the mix means having to figure out how to share that understanding with him or her
While most licensed daycare facilities have some understanding of allergies in general, there’s no guarantee that loving relatives, friendly neighborhood babysitters, or private daycare facilities will have the same experience. Ideally every caregiver would understand an individual child’s specific allergy, and the specific responses that should follow if she has an allergic reaction.
- Prevention: While the emergency response plan for what to do if your child has an allergic reaction is key, it’s even better if your little one’s secondary caregiver never has to use the plan. This means going over common and less common ways your child might encounter the allergen, the dangers of cross-contamination, and the importance of clean-up. Hand-washing may be a key part of a prevention plan if your child’s secondary caregiver has other messy eaters with their own little sticky hands to look out for as well. It’s unfortunate, but it’s true that parents of children with food allergies may encounter some resistance to policies meant to protect children from exposure to allergens, and bringing a note from a pediatrician about the extent of an allergy, and reasonable precautions to take to avoid an allergen may be helpful.
- Emergency response plan: For new caregivers, it can be helpful to set up some dedicated time to discuss the allergy, and the precautions and actions they will take. Showing up with an emergency response plan when you’re dropping your child off means you may catch her caregiver when he or she is preparing for the day, or distracted. Having a written emergency response plan is important, but going through the plan verbally is just as important – a written plan is great for referring to later, but you want your child’s care provider to already be familiar with the emergency response plan before an emergency happens. This might even extend to talking about what to say on the phone, if part of the emergency response plan is calling 911 or your local emergency services number.
- Medication: For serious allergies, medication is an important final line of defense, but in order for it to do its job, everyone involved in taking care of a child who has allergies should be familiar with proper dosing and the right way to administer medication. For children who take antihistamines like Benadryl after being exposed to an allergen, this means familiarity with the right dose for your child’s weight class. Benadryl can seem like a relatively harmless medication because it’s available over the counter, but it can be dangerous in doses that are too large. Caregivers of children who have been prescribed an epinephrine injector like an EpiPen should be familiar with how to administer one, either by watching a how-to video, practicing with an empty “practice” injector, or both. It’s also important to make sure that any medication that’s stored with another caregiver is kept somewhere easily accessible, and somewhere that won’t get too hot or too cold, since some medications are sensitive to temperature.
- “Hiring a New Babysitter or Caregiver for Your Child with Food Allergies.” KidsWithFoodAllergies. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, 2005-2017. Web.