COVID-19 Updates: Latest Information for Parents

First Aid & Emergencies

Babysitting: Dealing With Allergic Reactions

Allergic reactions usually are due to foods, medicine, insect stings, pets, pollen, and a few other substances. Most of these reactions aren’t serious.

However, serious allergic reactions do happen and can be life threatening. They should be treated immediately.

Possible signs of a mild allergic reaction:

  • itchiness and red bumps on the body (hives)
  • slight swelling
  • sneezing
  • itchy, watery eyes

Possible signs of a serious allergic reaction:

  • hives
  • swelling of the face, mouth, or tongue
  • difficulty swallowing or speaking
  • difficulty breathing
  • dizziness

What to Do

If a child has an allergic reaction:

  • Call the child’s parents immediately. Ask them if you should give the child any kind of medicine, such as an antihistamine.
  • If the child needs injectable epinephrine (like an EpiPen), follow the instructions given to you by the parents on how to use it. Call 911 and then the child’s parent(s) after administering the epinephrine.
  • Call 911 immediately if you don’t have injectable epinephrine.

Be Prepared

Knowing a few things in advance can help you prevent allergic reactions — or treat them if they do happen:

  • When you start babysitting for a family, ask the parents if the child has any allergies.
  • Have kids avoid things that are known to cause an allergic reaction (e.g., ask about ingredients in foods if you’re eating out).
  • Ask the child’s parent(s) to show you how to give an over-the-counter or doctor-prescribed medication, just in case a child has an allergic reaction.
  • Know where any allergy medicines (like an EpiPen) are kept, and bring them along during any outings.

Reviewed by: Kate M. Cronan, MD
Date reviewed: June 2013