This post about what you need to know about Coronavirus when you have celiac disease contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosures.
Coronavirus is affecting all facets of human life around the globe, and many of my friends in the celiac disease community are wondering how it affects them in particular.
I want to take a moment to help you, my celiac disease friends, understand Coronavirus, and how it does – and doesn’t – affect you.
Are Celiac Disease Patients Part of the High Risk Population?
Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a virus that impacts the lungs and breathing and is similar, symptom-wise, to flu-like symptoms.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are warning that the elderly and those with underlying health issues are not only at most risk for the illness, but also the ones most susceptible to its ill-effects.
It’s important to note that Coronavirus is new, and that no research exists as to the virus’s effect on people with celiac disease.
However, the CDC also says that people who are “immunocompromised” are part of the most at-risk population.
Rest assured, if you have celiac disease, you are not immunocompromised according to Beyond Celiac. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease, and having an autoimmune disease does not automatically make you immunocompromised.
Quite the contrary is true. Someone with celiac disease has a functioning immune system. It’s just that their immune system gets confused and launches an attack on otherwise healthy tissue every time they eat gluten, which the body confuses as a foreign invader, like a virus.
Related Reading: What is Celiac Disease?
Someone who is immunocompromised has an immune system that doesn’t respond to viruses and other foreign invaders when it should, and is therefore less able to respond to viruses, such as COVID-19, according to the CDC.
People on chemotherapy, taking steroids, transplant patients who are taking immunosuppressive drugs, or people with conditions such as AIDS, have a reduced ability to fight virus and infections.
Related Reading: How Not to Get Sick this Cold and Flu Season
Is Hand Santizer Gluten Free?
Obviously everyone is enforcing good hand washing practices, as they should. And if you’ve been gluten free long enough, you know to wash hands often, don’t lick your fingers, and take all those good hygiene precautions most people with celiac disease already take to avoid touching and ingesting gluten.
It’s important to note, however, that hand sanitizer may contain gluten. According to Safe Skin Products, Purell, the leading brand, does not contain any gluten. If you’re using a different brand, check the Safe Skin Products website to see what allergens it may or may not contain.
One hand sanitizer to avoid is Bath and Body Works. Many Bath and Body Works products, including the hand sanitizers and lotions, contain wheat germ. Read labels carefully before slathering anything on your hands or body. What might help prevent you from getting virus might be hurting you otherwise.
Related Reading: Best Certified Gluten-Free Beauty Products
While you cannot absorb gluten via your skin, you can transfer it from your hands to the foods you eat. Even though you shouldn’t lick your fingers or bite your nails, so many of you (including me) do it. If there’s wheat germ on your hands, it’s absolutely possible it could make its way into your mouth.
How to Prepare for Coronavirus
It’s important to follow the CDC’s recommendations – along with some good old-fashioned common sense – for staving off viruses. This means:
Wash Hands Often. Employ good hand washing (which most people with celiac disease do anyway). Wash for at least 20 seconds with warm to hot water and soap.
Be Responsible. Self quarantine if you feel sick or have any viral or flu-like symptoms. Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. Don’t touch your face, particularly your nose, mouth and eyes.
Avoid Contact. Do not shake hands or hug, even if the person does not show any symptoms.
Employ Social Distancing. Avoid large crowds. Spend time at home. Do not visit elderly or anyone who is immunocompromised.
Be Sensible About Stocking Up. You’ll obviously want some non-perishable gluten-free foods on hand, and maybe some frozen vegetables, but don’t go crazy. This isn’t the end of the world, and grocery stores will still have food… and toilet paper. No need to hoard toilet paper.
Medications. Make sure you have a 60-day supply of any prescription medications or key supplements on hand should you need to self-quarantine for a period of time.
Eat Healthy. Again, eating right and taking care of yourself is in your control. Eat lots of fresh (or frozen) fruits and vegetables and soak in all the Vitamin C you can get … just in case.
Fight Fear. Turn off the news. Go for a walk in the sunshine. This is not in your control, and you must stay calm and positive. This too shall pass.
How to Stay Productive During Coronavirus
While most trips, events, and schools are canceled, this is no time to panic. In fact, social distancing might be the chance you need to step-back from the daily grind and be productive at home.
During this period of forced social distancing, I plan to:
- Spend time with my kids playing games, watching movies, and baking some new recipes for my blog.
- Walk my dog during daylight hours, soaking in lots of Vitamin D.
- Do a little spring cleaning. My house is a cluttered mess!
- Spend time working on my blog, writing content, and doing things in my control that will improve my business when things return to normal.
- I also plan to continue to support the economy by shopping from afar. I plan to continue to order food at my favorite restaurants, even if just for take-out. I plan to continue to shop for clothes and love that Stitch Fix sends me hand-picked selections right to my doorstep each month. I also plan to stock up on gluten-free goodies online from Thrive Market.
It’s worth reiterating that panicking is not productive. This forced social distancing is to deter the disease from spreading. These drastic measures are more preventative than reactionary.
Most people – celiac disease or not – will not get the virus. And for those that do get the virus, if you are otherwise healthy, it’s likely you’ll come out on the other side just fine.
As Effie Trinket says in the Hunger Games, “May the odds be ever in your favor.”