If getting ready to go back to school isn’t hectic enough, finding allergy aware caregivers can make this time of year downright overwhelming. Here are some tips I’ve picked up over the years to make finding the right caregiver for your food allergic child a little easier.
1. Try to get a referral from another allergy aware sitter.
It’s likely that if your friends babysitter can work an epi-pen, the babysitter’s friend can too. Plus, that sitter will know the rigors of allergy awareness and if a friend is up to the challenge.
2. Try to recruit someone from a bigger daycare center.
While not allergy free, the big centers train their staff to use epi-pens and know the signs of a reaction (or at least they’re supposed to). Many of the staff would love the opportunity to use these skills in a family situation.
Sittercity (www.sittercity.com) is a surprisingly good service. They offer background checks and a variety of factors to use in your search. You can specifically search for a caregiver that has experience with food allergies and epi-pens. There is a fee for the service but in our experience it’s well worth it.
4. Know what questions to ask
I’ve learned that is not enough to ask your caregiver if they’ve been trained in using an epi-pen. It’s important to ask if they ever used one, and if not, will they be able to stick you child with a big needle if and when the time arises. I know from experience the terror you face when you actually must use the epi-pen. The fright of hurting your child is almost as bad as the fear of losing them. Make sure your caregiver really understands what anaphylaxis looks like. It’s not pretty. Do all you can to ensure that if the time comes, your caregiver is up to the task.
Also be sure to ask situational questions. If your going for a walk and you don’t expect food, do you bring the epi-pen? (yes, always). If neighborhood kids come over, do they need to wash their hands? (yes, always). Can your child eat those delicious cookies your neighbor just made? (no, never).
Finding a terrific allergy aware caregiver can be done. We’ve been successful for 7 1/2 years. Like most things with food allergies, it takes a little extra work. But its worth it. And if you need a referral, just ask!