What to tell your sitter about your child’s asthma

Does your child suffer from asthma? Here's an overview on the types of information and training his sitter may need.

Kara Murphy, Contributor

Articles> Sitter Training: Kids With Asthma

Do you have kids with asthma? If so, you know how scary it can be to watch your little one have an asthma attack. Though your child's pediatrician likely taught you exactly what to do in this situation, it's important to remember that your sitter may not have had this sort of training. Whether your child has an occasional nighttime babysitter or a daily 9-to-5 daycare provider, make sure that this caretaker knows exactly what to do when your little one suffers from an asthma attack.

"Asthma management is all about preparation and communication," says Dr. David Stukus, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Nationwide Children's hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and a spokesman for the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. According to Dr. Stukus, you should go over the following information with your sitter:

  1. Common Asthma Triggers
    As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention points out, there are many possible asthma triggers, which can vary from person to person. Some of the most common ones are tobacco smoke, pet dander, mold, upper respiratory infections and exercise. However, it's important to remember that different asthmatics have different triggers. As such, Dr. Stukus says that you should let your sitter know what may cause your individual child to have an asthma attack, so that it will be easier for her to avoid any and all situations where your little one could be exposed to this trigger.
  2. Symptoms
    According to Dr. Stukus, asthmatics often describe feeling like "a fish out of water" during an attack. "Think about when you hold your breath," he says. "You're almost suffocating. That's what an attack feels like." But unlike someone who voluntarily holds her breath, kids with asthma can't get relief from the feeling of not being able to breathe.

    According to Dr. Stukus, the common symptoms that your sitter should look out for include coughing, wheezing and complaints of chest tightness. And he stresses that your sitter should be especially observant if your asthmatic child is an infant or toddler. "Older children might be able to tell you what they're feeling like, but younger children might not understand." For more information, check out Asthma Symptoms in Kids.
  3. Treatment
    "Every child with asthma should have [his or her] own rescue inhaler," says Dr. Stukus. "But using them effectively requires knowing the proper technique." Dr. Stukus urges you to give your caregiver a chance to hold and practice administering your child's inhaler. "If someone just hands one of these to you, it's very foreign," he says. "But with simple instructions, anyone can do it."

It's also important for you to talk to your sitter about exactly what she should do in the event that your child has an asthma attack on her watch. Instruct her to follow these six steps:

  1. Don't Panic
    "Take a deep breath yourself and then help the child breathe," advises Dr. Stukus.
  2. Make Your Child Stop What He's Doing
    This step is essential, because your child's attack may have been triggered by the activity he was engaging in at the time.
  3. Sit Your Child Upright
    Your little one should not lie down when having an asthma attack!
  4. Administer Medicine
    Your sitter should help your child use her inhaler.
  5. Call 911 (If Necessary)
    "If there's an attack and the inhaler isn't helping, make sure [your sitter] understand[s] when to call for help," says Dr. Stukus.
  6. Notify You (If Necessary)
    "Everyone is different on when they want to be notified, so know what your comfort level is and when you want a call about an attack," says Dr. Stukus.

It's also important for you to tell your caregiver what not to do. Most importantly, Dr. Stukus stresses that your sitter should take any potential sign of an attack seriously. "Don't wait," he says. "If someone with asthma is having difficulty breathing, it's not going to get better. You have to do something about it -- and quickly."

By going over all of this information with your sitter, you can rest assured that your little one will be in great hands.

Can you think of any other guidance you think should be passed along concerning kids with asthma? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below.

Kara Murphy is a freelance writer who lives in Erie, Pennsylvania. She has two children, ages 4 and 5.

* This article is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be providing medical advice and is not a substitute for such advice. The reader should always consult a health care provider concerning any medical condition or treatment plan. Neither nor the author assumes any responsibility or liability with respect to use of any information contained herein.