Father and son on bike

Leaving your child in other people's care

Whenever you leave your child in other people’s care you want to make sure they’ll be safe and well.

Being a parent means there are going to be times when you’ll need to hand over your child to someone else’s care, perhaps with a childminder or nursery, staff at school, family members, parents of school friends, or after school clubs such as Brownies. 

Whether your child has a confirmed diagnosis of asthma, or has ‘suspected asthma’, here we give you some expert advice alongside some tips and ideas from other parents, to help you feel more confident about leaving them.

Feeling concerned? You’re not alone…

Parents of children with asthma, or ‘suspected asthma’, often tell us about the things they worry about when leaving their child with other people. For example, many parents worry that other people will:

  • know very little about asthma or have incorrect or out of date ideas about it
  • make assumptions about what  their child does and doesn’t need, or can and can’t do
  • be unfamiliar with asthma medicines and not know how to use the inhalers correctly
  • leave their child out of activities because they’re worried about asthma symptoms coming on
  • not want to take on the responsibility of looking after a child with asthma or suspected asthma.

This page will help you give people the information and reassurance they need to:

  • feel confident they can include your child in any activities
  • understand asthma and how it affects your child in particular
  • know what to do to cut your child’s risk of getting asthma symptoms
  • spot asthma symptoms quickly and act in the right way
  • get in touch with you quickly when they need to.

“I spoke to my mum the other day. She was always worried about looking after her grandchildren as she was nervous about them having an asthma attack and wouldn’t know what to do. But now she’s confident in looking after them.” - Sarah Johnson, mum to two boys with asthma.

Telling others about your child’s asthma

Whoever you’re leaving your child with, whether it’s for an hour or an overnight stay, it’s important to let them know about your child’s asthma.

Remember that this might be a new experience for a lot of people. Even if they’ve heard of asthma, or know someone with asthma, they may not have first-hand experience of looking after a child with asthma. So just as it may have taken you a bit of time to get your head round it all, they might also need time and reassurance before they can start to feel confident they understand your child’s needs.

Most people, though, will take it seriously, and listen to what you have to say, and will want to get familiar with your child’s asthma so they can do a good job of looking after them.

Don’t forget to use  your child’s written asthma action plan to help you explain things. You could also point people in the direction of our website for expert general advice about asthma so they can improve their understanding of it.

Putting aside the time to talk about your child’s asthma

Asthma is a very common condition but everyone’s asthma is different. Anyone looking after your child still needs to get to know your child’s asthma, and understand your child’s particular triggers, signs and symptoms and medicines. Putting aside some time to talk about your child’s asthma is an important first step. It will help everyone feel more confident which means your child is more likely to have an enjoyable time – and so are you!

It’s usual to call another parent or family member for a chat before your child stays with them, but you could also try some of these other tips to help everyone feel more confident and reassured:

  • arrive a bit earlier at the swim party/park outing to talk to parents and tell them where your child’s blue reliever inhaler is before you leave
  • email over your child’s asthma action plan and let people know your child will have their blue reliever inhaler with them
  • ask a new babysitter to come round early, or ahead of your night out, so you can talk about your child’s asthma and show them where everything is – including all the contact numbers
  • book in regular catch-ups with your child’s carers, maybe every month or couple of months, or more often if it suits you both.

"Sending Emelia off to school was really hard because it meant that I wasn't in control of her condition any longer. In fact I was petrified. The school had an asthma policy and the school nurse did a care plan. We had several meetings before she started with the head teacher, school cook, class teacher and support teacher. I found the meetings very reassuring.” - Maria Brain, mother to Emelia age 9.

How to explain your child’s asthma to others

“When George and Lena were little and we’d leave them with my parents, I used to write everything down on a piece of paper for them – especially all the details of their medicines and what to take when.” - Jayne Bettles, who has two children with asthma (George, 14, and Lena, 12).

  • Be practical and matter of fact about how asthma does or doesn’t affect your child. You want people to take your child’s asthma seriously but you don’t want them to over worry so that they exclude your child from activities, or avoid inviting your child over.
  • Keep things simple and relevant to your child. When you explain your child’s asthma you don’t need to worry about going into lots of scientific detail – you just need to make sure your child’s carer is clear on a few points relating to your child’s asthma.
  • Talk them through your child’s medicines. Don’t forget they may never have seen an inhaler or spacer before so talking them through and showing them how to use them will be helpful and reassuring.
  • Talk through your child’s written asthma action plan. It’s the best thing  to use to talk about your child’s medicines routine (including any other medicines they might take too, such as anti-histamines for hay fever), their triggers and what to do in an emergency. Leave them a paper copy or an emailed photo they can keep on their phone. This helps them feel confident and gives you reassurance that the instructions they are using are correct and personal to your child.
  • Explain what to do in an asthma attack. This could well be what a carer is going to worry about the most when you tell them your child has asthma. Being very clear about what to do, and who to call and when, will hopefully reassure them. Explain that your child rarely/often has an asthma attack so the person knows what to expect. And show them the instructions on the asthma action plan so they are clear about what signs show your child is having an asthma attack and what to do. Ask them to call you as soon as they have called the ambulance.
  • Explain that for most children, an asthma attack rarely comes out of the blue. In many cases, symptoms build up gradually over a few days, and it’s sometimes possible to ward off an asthma attack if you notice and take action. So being informed can help you to help your child.
  • Ask for updates. Ask any carers to let you know if they have noticed symptoms or your child had to use the blue reliever inhaler.
  • Make sure your child isn’t around smokers. Explain to anyone looking after your child that cigarette smoke is a serious asthma trigger. Smoking around your child will make their asthma worse, and cigarette smoke can even cause an asthma attack.

For example, you could say:

  • “Every child with asthma has different asthma triggers. My child tends to react to x, y and z.” This could be anything from stress to dust mites, pollen to cold weather, pets or smoking.
  • “These are my child’s asthma medicines and here’s what a spacer looks like – it helps the medicine get to the lungs.”
  • “Symptoms to look out for with my child are coughing, starting to wheeze, getting out of breath or complaining of tummy ache.” Maybe there are other signs you’ve noticed like your child going a bit quiet or pale. Whatever your child’s usual signs are, make sure their carer knows what they are.
  • “This blue inhaler is the one to use quickly if my child gets asthma symptoms or an asthma attack.”
  • “Here’s how to use the inhaler and spacer.” Show them what to do. If your child is old enough, reassure the carer that the child knows what to do themselves.

“I used to worry but you have to let others help share the responsibility. Everyone was really good and knew what to look for and had friends or family with asthma.” - Cheryl Davies Pyatt, mum to Corey, diagnosed at 10 months, now 20. 

How to explain your child’s ‘suspected asthma’ to others

If you’ve been told by your GP or asthma nurse that your child has ‘suspected asthma’ then you’re probably going through what can sometimes be a long and tricky process to get a confirmed diagnosis. So what do you tell other people who are caring for your child?

Make sure carers understand that even though it’s not possible to have a confirmed diagnosis right now, perhaps because your child is too young, your child is being treated for asthma as part of what’s called a ‘trial by treatment’. Explaining things to them as clearly as you can, and telling them what to look out for and what to do, will apply just as much to a child with suspected asthma as to a child with a definite diagnosis.

Help your child tell others when they feel unwell

Make sure your child understands how important it is that they speak up if they don’t feel well. Children can find this embarrassing and difficult to do, especially if they’re with their friends, but they need to know that it’s nothing to be ashamed of and could stop their symptoms getting worse.

Even a younger child can feel reassured by having clear instructions about what they need to do if they have asthma symptoms when they’re not with you. Help them to understand that the one thing they mustn’t do is ignore them.

If your child is:

  • coughing or wheezing
  • very short of breath, feeling like they can’t get enough of a breath/feel like they can’t breathe in properly
  • has a tight feeling in their chest
  • has trouble speaking in short sentences

They need to:

  • Stop what they’re doing
  • Tell someone who can help
  • Take their blue reliever inhaler.

How and when to contact you

Don’t forget to leave contact numbers, and tell people how and when you want to be called – if your child is unwell, or if there is any doubt about their inhalers or symptoms for example. If it’s a babysitter, child-minder or friend, ask them to call you a couple of hours in just to let you know how they’re getting on.

Perhaps your child is taking their own phone with them. If so check your number is in their contacts list too.

“I sometimes feel guilty leaving the girls in other people’s care even if it’s with Maria’s mum and dad who are brilliant. In the early days, we’d write everything down, and now we hand over their written asthma action plans. We know they’re on the ball, and that if they’re not sure about something, they’ll phone me, or Maria.” - Scott Brain, dad to Emelia, 8, and Elisia, 3, who both have asthma. 

Don’t forget to tell carers about anything new

Perhaps you’ve been for an asthma review and your child’s medicines have changed, and their action plan has been updated. Or your child’s had a bad night, or a cold. If anything changes remember to let your child’s carers know.

For example let them know when your child:

  • has had a bad night or been awake coughing all night
  • seems to be affected by a new trigger
  • is more wheezy than usual
  • has a cold or viral infection
  • has hay fever
  • has been using their blue reliever inhaler more than usual
  • has seen the GP or asthma nurse about their asthma
  • has had an asthma attack
  • is on new medicines or a course of steroid tablets
  • has an updated asthma action plan.

It’s also worth checking in with your child’s carer now and then – in case they want to update you about anything.

Say yes to sleepovers

Staying calm and organised will help you feel more in control and more confident about saying yes to things from days out with friends to sleepovers to school trips. It’ll also help you say yes to your own invitations and get a night out!

  • Keep to their asthma routine every day and help your child stick to it, by packing their preventer inhaler as well as their reliever when they sleep over somewhere or go on a school trip.
  • Make sure their asthma action plan is up to date and have some spare copies printed off to give to people looking after your child
  • Have a check list ready of the important things anyone needs to know – so if there are any last minute trips to friends’ houses or the park you know what to tell people – even if it’s at the school gates
  • Have a bag packed ready with your child’s ‘asthma kit’: reliever, preventer, spacer, action plan and symptom calendar, and contact numbers. Don’t forget any other medicines your child might be taking like hay fever medicines.
  • Know when things are coming up by using a calendar, and if someone’s caring for your child for the first time slot in some time to talk to them about your child’s asthma.

Knowing when to leave them and when to keep them at home

Parents tell us it’s sometimes tricky to work out when to send their child to nursery, child-minder or school, and when to keep them home. Sometimes it’s a case of trusting your instincts - if your child is unwell, make sure you take them to see their GP or asthma nurse so they can support you in getting your child’s asthma back on track. But sometimes it doesn’t feel clear cut.

These kinds of decisions are bound to be a bit easier if you’ve built up a good relationship with your child’s carers. Knowing they understand your child’s asthma, and have a copy of your child’s asthma action plan, and are clear on when to contact you if they need to will give you more confidence about leaving your child. And having a good relationship with your child’s carers will also make it easier to call in to tell them your child needs to stay home, because you know they’ll understand why, and can support your child when they’re well enough to go next time.

You can find lots more advice on keeping your child well at school and nursery

Last updated May 2016