Preparing A Sitter To Care For Your Food Allergic Child

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If you have a child with a severe peanut or other food allergy, engaging a new babysitter takes extra time and planning.

Parents will naturally screen potential sitters for maturity level and a willingness to learn about caring for a child at risk for anaphylaxis. Once a sitter is found, they will need to be taught about the child’s allergy and other healthcare needs.

Preparing the Babysitter

The babysitter needs to know the same things that family members or the child’s teachers must know: avoiding allergen contact, the signs or symptoms of an allergic reaction, and how to provide emergency treatment:

  • Have the sitter read your emergency care plan, discuss each point with them, and have them verbalize the information back to you.
  • Train the sitter in the use of an auto-injector using the training device that comes with most auto-injectors. Have the sitter verbalize what to do as they use the “trainer” on their own thigh. Notice whether they hold the injector against the thigh for a full 10 seconds as you do with the real injector. You might also show them an online training video.
  • Let the sitter see what your medicine pack looks like, and where it and other first aid supplies are stored.
  • Show the sitter where to find emergency contact information, which should include your cellphone number(s) and the phone number of any nearby family or friends who can be summoned for help.
  • It is wise to keep an “emergency script” on your refrigerator or with the contact information. The script will help the sitter relay necessary information quickly and accurately to a 911 operator. It might read: "This is a medical emergency. My name is ______ , I’m at (your address) in (your city). I am with a __-year-old child with a severe food allergy who is having an anaphylactic reaction. I have given him/her a shot of ephinephrine. Please send paramedics. The nearest cross streets are (street name) and (street name)."
  • Emphasize to the sitter that NO food can be brought into your home. Reveal where the “safe” foods and snacks are kept, and invite the sitter to enjoy whatever is there. Make sure it is understood the allergic child can eat ONLY these safe foods and nothing else.
  • Request sitters to wash their hands with soap and water before coming to the house. If necessary, ask them to refrain from eating peanuts, or food containing peanuts, the day they are sitting for you.

It is not easy to hand over care for a child with severe food allergy. There is a helpful webinar about doing so posted on YouTube called "Parties, Playdates, and Babysitters: How to Transition Care for Children with Food Allergies."

Source: Kids With Food Allergies; YouTube Photo credit: rabbipedro

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