Celiac disease is a life-long condition, but it is 100 percent manageable with permanent modifications to the diet (gluten free diet). It is an auto-immune disease, meaning that it causes a person’s immune system to attack the body. Consuming gluten will cause damage to the finger-like projections in the small intestine, called villi, which are in the lining of your child’s small intestine. These help to absorb vitamins, minerals and nutrients.

If your child has recently been diagnosed with celiac disease, it is natural to have mixed emotions at this time. No parent wants to hear that their child has a medical condition, although on the other hand, you and your family may be relieved to have an answer to your child’s symptoms. It may also be comforting to know that celiac disease is completely treatable, and the intestinal damage is reversible.

It is completely natural to feel overwhelmed, confused, excited and/or unsure about how to begin the gluten free diet and healing process.

The good news is that there are many naturally nutritious and tasty foods that fit into the gluten free diet! These include things such as fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, eggs and even ice cream.

During the time of COVID-19, it may be especially overwhelming. I urge you and your family to use this time to explore fun ways to incorporate the gluten free diet at home.

Gluten-free lifestyle tips

So what are some ways to get started with the gluten-free lifestyle, and keep it fun and interesting even during these times of social distancing?

Here are some tips:

  • First, if you have any questions regarding getting started on the gluten free diet, please be sure to reach out to your gastroenterologist and/or dietitian.
  • Most of us are still at home the majority of the time, but it can be helpful to create a plan for socially distanced activities (i.e. picnic outside with neighbors or friends).
  • Always keep staples and gluten-free foods on hand at home if unable to go out.
  • Celiac Foundation has coordinated with sponsors and vendors to assure a steady supply of direct-to-you and in-store products.
  • Plan gluten free meals ahead of time. There are various resources available online.
  • Use this increased family time to explore new gluten free recipes, and encourage all members of the family to participate. Challenge the family to create at least one new recipe each week!
  • If you do want to pick up or carry out, refer to findmeglutenfree.com for some ideas.
  • Make sure to pay attention to your own and your child’s mental health and find ways to talk to them regarding their concerns.
  • Find ways to practice self-care to reduce stress and anxiety (outdoor activities are one example!)

Pediatric celiac disease and COVID-19

Celiac disease is not known to be a risk factor for increased severity of COVID-19. Celiac disease is also not considered to be an immunocompromised state in children.

Continue to follow CDC recommendations for your child with celiac disease, like everyone else. This includes washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jessica Stafford, PNP-C, is a nurse practitioner at PSV in gastroenterology. She received her master’s in nursing at Johns Hopkins University, and now lives with her husband and their dog in Arlington, VA.
Pediatric Specialists of Virginia is a medical group created by Children's National Hospital and Inova Health System to be focused exclusively on caring for children. Our specialists are recognized as “Top Docs” by Washingtonian and Northern Virginia Magazine and have appeared in U.S. News & World Report as leading experts in their fields.

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