Families have undergone a significant amount of adapting to make everything in their lives work through this global pandemic. Some have found the help of virtual sitting to be a great tool for balancing working from home and keeping the kids occupied. While others have found that in-home child care is a must for them.
If your state considers babysitters and nannies essential and you’re in need of in-home child care, there are a few things to consider before their first day of work. We connected with Zachary Testo, MD, an Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine to discuss what families and sitters could be considering right now (see post date of article) when using in-home child care.
Considering In-Home Child Care
Is in-home child care right for your family? Following state law, that answer is up to you to decide. Consider the health conditions of everyone in your family and their risk of exposure. The purpose of social distancing is to reduce the spread of the virus. Introducing a new person to be in contact with your family shouldn’t be done lightly.
Dr. Testo says, “if you can say with confidence that you have not been exposed within the last five days, and you are not exhibiting the symptoms, then the chances are less likely, but never zero. Certainly, it is a risk/benefit conversation that has to happen within each individual family.”
Be prepared to discuss your thoughts and plans about risk management in your interviews with sitters. We have a list of typical interview questions to get you started. However, families need to consider more than just the typical right now. There are also questions to ask that are specific to COVID-19.
Precautions To Consider
Deciding to hire an in-home sitter is the first step. Next, it’s important to consider some of the ways your family and the sitter can take precautions to reduce everyone’s risk of exposure. It’s important to keep in mind that this list isn’t intended to be exhaustive and you should take the precautions that are right for your family.
How Sitters Enter the House
You’ve probably set up a system for you and your family members to sanitize yourself and items every time you re-enter the house after being in public. Consider how this will work for your sitter every time they come to the house. Here are some ideas from Dr. Testo to get you started:
- Set up a station at the front door with disinfectant wipes, spray, and hand sanitizer.
- Everyone that enters/re-enters the home needs to wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before doing anything else. Even if it’s a short walk around the block, wash your hands every time you re-enter your home.
- Provide wipes to the sitter to wipe down the steering wheel and handles of their car and cell phone.
- Keeping the shoes and purses at the front door is probably a good idea. They’re items that get regularly touched.
Keeping the House Clean
Keeping your house clean comes down to how you address who and what is entering your house. The virus won’t spontaneously appear. Dr. Testo says, “make it a priority to have general cleanliness in the house as well as having enough equipment for everyone to keep their hands washed and cleaned throughout the day. As long as you have soap and water, you are at less of a risk.”
Other than people, another thing that comes into your home a lot is food. If you order delivery, transfer your food to clean dishware, throw out the delivery containers, and immediately wash your hands. If you have fresh fruits and vegetables, wash those just like you normally would. There’s nothing that’s going to be 100%, but there are ways to reduce your risk.
Should Masks and Gloves Be Used in the Home?
Masks are great prevention tools but should never be thought about as the end-all-be-all for safety. “I think it’s more about vigilance when outside than it is about wearing a mask in the home,” says Dr. Testo. They’re important for use in public to prevent spreading sickness. If you’re already in the same home because no one is sick, masks aren’t going to be much help.
As for gloves, wearing them isn’t necessarily going to help reduce the spread of the disease. “It might help you personally because you’re not physically touching things, but everything you touch with those gloves will live on those gloves.”
Detecting and Managing Sickness
Should We Do Daily Temperature Checks?
Medical facilities and other major buildings currently still open are conducting fever checks upon entrance. Is that something you should consider doing with your sitter? According to Dr. Testo, not necessarily.
“I’m not discouraging it, but you don’t want a false sense of security just because someone’s temperature comes back at a 98.6. Our normal body temperature fluctuates throughout the day, but typically if you have a temperature of 100.4 or greater, you’re considered feverish and it raises our red flags.”
There have been very few times where someone has taken their temperature randomly and ends up having a fever. A fever is the body’s way of telling you something is wrong—a warning sign.
When Shouldn’t the Sitter Go to Work?
If anyone—in the family or the sitter—is feeling “off” with their health. While there are typical symptoms, there have also been atypical symptoms for the virus. It’s better to be safe than risk anyone potentially sharing illness with others.
Dr. Testo says, “the instinct, especially in America is to push through these types of things. But what we [healthcare professionals] want to do is to change that perception—this is in honor of the greater good, not necessarily your own good sometimes.”
Even if you think something, like a nauseous stomach, is probably from the big lunch you had, it’s better to wait and find out for sure than to risk interacting with others.
Encouragement from Dr. Testo
“If you need help, especially with child care, that does not mean that you’re being selfish. It means that you are acknowledging that you need help in a dire time. But, be sure to put it in the perspective of what is going to be best for the general population and best for the person you might be employing.”
“As dire as these times can be, always be focusing on the safety of the family you’re going to be caring for. Just like me and my colleagues, I’m sure that possibly infecting others is on your mind when looking for work. It’s natural for sitters to experience those kinds of feelings. Do a mental check and be honest with yourself about whether or not going into other homes is what you’re willing to do at this time.”
Our conversation with Dr. Testo is not everything there is to know about child care and COVID-19. If you’d like to know more, here are some resources to help:
Symptoms of COVID-19 according to the CDC
What to do if you’re sick according to the CDC
How to prevent getting sick according to the CDC
How to keep children healthy according to the CDC
Who needs to take extra precautions according to the CDC
The information presented in this article is not intended to be construed as medical advice. Sittercity recommends consulting your family physician to ensure that you have accurate, up-to-date information applicable to your specific situation.