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What About Childcare?

Updated: Jul 3, 2018

When it comes to food allergies, it's important to make sure you're leaving your child in trusted and informed hands. Here are some tips on how to set up the right care.

One of the most challenging aspects of managing a child's food allergies is having to delegate that to other caregivers when you are not around. It is imperative that you help the caregiver understand how exactly you want them to manage the allergies vs. them making their own judgment calls (unless that is part of your plan).

First and foremost, it's important to find the right caregiver. Not everyone will be capable of adhering to and following an action plan. This could be due to a number of factors, including how seriously they perceive the threat of food allergies to be, their level of vigilance and attention to detail, or how they operate under stress. While I know that many people may not have this luxury, if at all possible, I would recommend avoiding caregivers who do not take the allergy seriously.

Once you have determined the right caregiver(s), it's beneficial to provide them with a clear action plan and to be able to walk them through it. I recommend writing everything down on paper in concise language, so that they have something to refer to. Information that I've found helpful to include:

  • The specific foods your child is allergic to. I would also indicate if any of them are contact allergies or are especially severe ones.

  • Guidelines for what foods your child is allowed to eat. Specify your rules. For example, will your child ONLY eat the food you specifically provide and nothing else? Are there foods outside the house that your child is allowed to eat? Are you OK with the caregiver being the one to check the label or no?

  • Contact allergies to be aware of (if applicable) and guidelines that may be helpful to combat that. For us, we listed some of the routine habits that we've adopted as a family, such as systematic handwashing, ensuring that surfaces are clean and what that entails, as well as any guidelines on how sensory materials should be handled (i.e. play-doh contains wheat ) or watch-outs and how to be careful as it relates to food other kids might be consuming in that environment.

  • Examples on the typical reactions and your treatment plan in each of those scenarios. This is something you can craft in partnership with your doctor/allergist. We have also used the FARE chart as referenced in my previous post on how to spot and treat allergic reactions.

  • Emergency contact information. We've included both parents' contact info, the pediatrician, the allergist, and also provided any health insurance information.

A picture is worth a thousand words, so another document I've created that caregivers have found helpful is a compilation of images and examples of my child's past allergic reactions, to help them know what to look for. In that document, I also described how we responded or how we would like for them to respond if they see an allergic reaction that demonstrates the symptoms in the image. (If you are interested in seeing this, please feel free to contact me.)

It's also helpful, at least when establishing a new caregiver relationship or if you know there are other caregivers in the mix (i.e. assistant teachers rotating in, etc.), to ensure some basics are also communicated to them. This can be done by keeping the dialogue going with your school director or head teacher and just staying in the know. Don't be afraid to ask questions. At the very least, help them to know not to give your child any food. We've found it helpful to use medical ID bracelets or buttons like the below.

That's all for the written and planning part. Just as important is how all of this information is communicated.

I would highly recommend having an in-person meeting with the relevant people, whether that is the nanny, the teachers, a school director, or a school nurse, or all of the above. It is a lot of information to go through, and it can make all the difference to walk them through it vs. leaving it up to them to study on their own.

A few tips that have worked for us:

  • Be humble, kind, and respectful, instead of demanding. While some situations may call for the latter, in the initial interactions when you are establishing a relationship, I've found it more helpful to be humble and respectful. Realize that this is out of the norm for them and requires them to go above and beyond what they are accustomed to dealing with. They are people and in turn, relational beings. It will be easier for them to want to go the extra mile if they feel respected and appreciated.

  • Foster compassion. I've personally found it impactful to help them understand how challenging the journey has been, especially the impact it has had on my child. We've shared about how we discovered my son's food allergies and how frightening that experience was. We've also shared about what he's gone through and how it's affected him, so they understand the severity and seriousness of food allergies. Help them understand the significance and lasting impact that their efforts will have, and how much it will mean to a sweet little child.

  • Make it easy for them. Managing food allergies is already hard enough for parents who are willing to do anything for their child; so you can only imagine the added labor on those outside of that circle. If you have the luxury to be able to do so, offer to help make it easy for them. We've offered to provide all the wipes for the classroom or even safe snacks for the whole class, for example. Any extra materials they needed or extra costs they needed to incur, we try to offer to help contribute toward it. If you make it easy, there's a higher likelihood your asks will be implemented.

  • Provide them with all the medications and train them on how to use them. Come with all the medications (Benadryl, epinephrine autoinjectors, asthma inhalers, etc.) that are in your action plan, and be prepared to give a live demonstration on how to use them. The epinephrine autoinjectors usually come with a training version. Let them try to use it themselves. For info on epi-pens, refer to my prior post here.

Finding the right caregivers can be an anxiety-inducing process. But having been on the other side, I can tell you that this has also been one of the most rewarding. When you find your trusted caregivers, they will come to hold an incredibly special place in your heart, one that's more profound than most. To see someone help take on that burden and start to own that for themselves out of a heart of care for your child - it's an incredible feeling that brings tears to my eyes every time I think about it. It's hard to find those people, but they are out there.

Note: The above is not a substitute for professional medical advice and is meant to be just one perspective. Always consult and seek the advice of your doctor. 

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