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Caregivers and Food Allergies: How to Enjoy Your Time Away

by Tami Pyles

The words “date night” for most parents evoke feelings of excitement and romance, but when you are the parents of a child with food allergies, leaving your little one for the evening can be downright scary. Placing your child in the care of others can be one of the most stressful parts of managing a food allergy. It took our family some time to get comfortable doing it, but with good planning and communication, my husband and I are now able to enjoy a much needed break.

Here are some tips and strategies for making sure everyone is prepared and you can enjoy your time away.

Selecting Your Caregiver

Let’s be honest, not everyone is up to the task of managing your child’s food allergies. You need to vet your caregivers to determine who is the right fit. Things to assess include:

•     Do they understand the severity of the allergy and able to recognize signs and symptoms

•     Are they educated on food allergies or are they open to being educated?

•     Could they execute in an emergency situation, such as anaphylaxis?

Even if all of the answers are yes, one important final question to ask is are they comfortable watching your child? They may “get it”, but at the end of the day may be so uncomfortable or worried that it may ultimately not be a good fit.

Once you have determined a good fit, meet with your caregiver on a separate day (don’t do this on the fly as you are running out the door) to ensure they understand all of the key things they need to know. This review should include:

•     Your child’s allergens

•     Food allergy basics, including what a reaction looks like

•     Training on how to administer and care for emergency medications

•     How to read food labels

•     A tour of your house - where medications are stored; where safe foods are located (if you keep allergens in your house); areas or items that are off-limits for your child; and written instructions on how to handle meals, cleaning procedures, rules for any outings, and emergency protocol.

Ready, Set, Leave

Part of feeling comfortable while you are away involves having your house (or theirs) prepared. 

If the caregiver will be coming to your house ensure the following things are ready:

•     Anaphylaxis Emergency Care Plan and medications are easily accessible. 

•     Access to a phone. If there is no landline, be sure to communicate this ahead of time and ensure your caregiver arrives with a charged phone and charger.

•     Meals and snacks prepared, or provide detailed instructions on what to prepare/how to prepare it.

•     Contact information - how to reach you while away and backup contacts if you are unavailable.

If you will be taking your child to a caregiver’s house make sure that you have addressed the following:

•     House has been properly cleaned.

•     Have a food plan - will you bring food, will they prepare safe foods? Be sure to check labels and approve any food before you leave. Ensure allergen containing foods have been stored in a safe location, out of reach of your child.

•     Discuss non-food items that could pose a risk. For example, if the caregiver will be bathing your child, ensure lotions or soaps are safe.

•     Ensure there is a working phone.

•     Provide your Anaphylaxis Emergency Care Plan, all medications, and how to reach you while gone.

Leaving your child with food allergies in the care of others can seem daunting, but with advanced planning, education and good communication, everyone can have a safe and fun time.

About Tami:
Tami Pyles is the Founder of Thrive On Consulting. She works with individuals and families with food allergies to learn practical day-to-day management strategies to Thrive On; and she provides food allergy training and education to groups and companies. She is a certified AllerCoach and a food allergy mom who manages her daughter’s life-threatening food allergies. She frequently speaks and writes on food allergy topics and also has her own blog, Thoughts for Thriving On, where she shares ideas for living safely with food allergies. She lives in Louisville, KY with her husband and two daughters, and is actively involved in the local food allergy community. You can also follow Tami on Facebook and Twitter.