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How to prepare babysitter?
Q: When I get a babysitter for my son, what kind of information should I make sure to leave in case of an emergency?
A: Although emergencies are rare, it's best for you and your babysitters to be prepared. Talk with her about preventing and preparing for emergencies and write down clear instructions. Post the instructions where they're easy to see, such as near the phone or on the refrigerator. Have an extra copy available for the babysitter to carry with her if she takes your son out to the park or elsewhere.

What kinds of emergencies might she encounter? Probably the most common types of emergencies are injuries (such as falls, choking, cuts, poisoning or burns), illnesses (vomiting, allergic reactions or asthma attacks), and natural disasters (earthquakes, fires or severe storms).

Start by asking the babysitter about her own preparation for dealing with emergencies. What kinds of emergencies has she dealt with? Has she recently taken a class in pediatric first aid and CPR? Does she know what to do if your baby or child is choking on a piece of food or a toy? What would she do if a fire started in the kitchen?

Make sure you give the babysitter a good orientation to your child and your home. Let her know your guidelines for preventing emergencies: the safe play areas for your child, how to heat bottles or cut up food safely, and keeping medicines, small objects and sharp items out of reach.

Write down your child's full name, birthdate, weight and your home address. If your son has any medical conditions, such as allergies or asthma, be sure to explain and give the babysitter a written description of foods to avoid, signs of an attack, medications to give and when to call emergency medical services. Also, orient the babysitter to the location of the phone, first aid kit and fire extinguisher. Tell her how to exit your home in case of fire and what to do in case of an earthquake or storm.

Finally, be sure to leave a list of emergency telephone numbers for your babysitter. This would include your cell phone number or the telephone number wherever you'll be; emergency contacts such as a neighbor, friend or relative; emergency medical services, fire, police, and poison control, and your child's doctor, dentist and medical/dental insurance plan numbers.

Karen Sokal-Gutierrez M.D., M.P.H. Pediatrician