Celiac Disease and COVID-19
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses which may cause illness in animals or humans. In humans, several coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The most recently discovered coronavirus causes coronavirus disease COVID-19.
There is currently no vaccine or antiviral medicine to prevent or treat COVID-19. The most effective ways to protect yourself and others are to frequently wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, cover your cough or sneeze, and maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from other people.
Celiac Disease and Increased Risk of Severe Illness From COVID-19
To date, there have been no studies or reports suggesting patients with celiac disease are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 compared to patients without celiac disease.
Data is now being collected in an international adult and pediatric registry called SECURE-Celiac. We encourage all celiac patients diagnosed with COVID-19 to have their physician file a report at covidceliac.com.
The Celiac Disease Foundation Medical Advisory Board states that celiac disease patients in general are not considered to be immunocompromised. A small proportion of celiac disease patients with severe malnutrition and weight loss, the rare complication of Type 2 refractory celiac disease, on immunosuppressive medications, or with other serious illnesses, may be at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 and should consult with their physicians.
It is important to know that celiac disease is a chronic medical condition in which there appears to be an increased risk of infections with pneumococcal bacteria that cause pneumonia and herpes zoster (causing shingles). In addition, there appears to be increased risk of worse outcomes with influenza infections and an inadequate response to vaccination with hepatitis B. Still, these risks, while measureable in several studies, are small in magnitude. It is reasonable to consider that those with celiac disease, especially older individuals, may be at a small increased risk of worse outcomes with infections with this new virus.
Pneumococcal and Flu Vaccinations Strongly Recommended for People With Celiac Disease
To protect against secondary infection of pneumonia, the Celiac Disease Foundation Medical Advisory Board strongly advises people with celiac disease, aged 15-64 years, who have not received the scheduled pneumococcal vaccination series as a child, to consider vaccination. An annual flu vaccine is also recommended. This applies to all people with celiac disease, whether or not they are on a gluten-free diet.
The COVID-19 virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person:
- Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet)
- Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks
- These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs
- These droplets can land on objects and surfaces around the infected person and be transmitted by people touching them and then touching their eyes, nose or mouth – it is not certain how long the COVID-19 virus can survive on surfaces but preliminary information suggests it may persist for a few hours up to several days. Surfaces may be cleaned with a simple disinfectant to kill the virus.
- Some recent studies have suggested that COVID-19 may be spread by people who are not showing symptoms
CDC’s most recent list of those at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 currently includes:
- People 65 years or older
- People who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility
- People of all ages with underlying medical conditions, especially if they are not well controlled
- Chronic lung disease or moderate to serve asthma
- Serious heart conditions
- Conditions that cause a person to be immunocompromised, including cancer treatment, smoking, bone marrow or organ transplantation, immune deficiencies, poorly controlled HIV or AIDS, and prolonged use of corticosteroids and other immune weakening medications
- Severe obesity (body mass index [BMI of 40 or higher)
- Chronic kidney disease and who are undergoing dialysis
- Liver disease
Avoid COVID-19 Infection by Practicing Careful Infection Control:
- Social distancing – stay home as much as possible, avoid social gatherings of more than 10 people, and stay at least 6 feet away from others when in public
- Frequent hand washing – wash hands with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds or with hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, especially after being in a public place or after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
- Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces daily – including tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks
- Avoiding touching of eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
- Covering of mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when in public for anyone over the age of 2
Prepare to Stay-At-Home or Quarantine:
- Create a Stay-At-Home and Quarantine plan
- Stock up on staples and gluten-free foods
- Finding gluten-free food is a challenge for many due to panic buying. We have coordinated with our sponsors and vendors to assure a steady supply of direct-to-you and in store products at Gluten-Free Resources .
- Plan your gluten-free meals
- Whether you are now learning to cook or have been cooking for years, planning for 3 gluten-free meals a day plus snacks can be overwhelming. Browse our Gluten-Free Meal Plans to determine which is the right fit for you.
- Try new gluten-free recipes
- Pay attention to your mental health and practice self-care to reduce stress and anxiety
- Learn how to talk to your children about COVID-19
What to Do if You or Your Child is Ill:
Though many people experience pneumonia as a complication of the virus, most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment.
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 in adults are:
- dry cough
Some patients may have mild symptoms that begin gradually:
- aches and pains
- nasal congestion
- runny nose
- sore throat
Some people become infected but don’t develop any symptoms and don’t feel unwell.
Children with confirmed COVID-19 have generally presented with mild symptoms.
Reported symptoms in children include:
- Cold-like symptoms, such as fever, runny nose, and cough
It’s not known yet whether some children may be at higher risk for severe illness, for example, children with underlying medical conditions and special healthcare needs.
If you think you have COVID-19 symptoms or have been exposed to someone who has it:
- Stay home.
- Call your healthcare provider and let them know about your symptoms. Tell them that you have or may have COVID-19. This will help them take care of you and keep other people from getting infected or exposed.
- View Celiac Disease Centers to see which experts are offering telehealth.
- If you are not sick enough to be hospitalized, you can recover at home. Follow CDC instructions for What to Do if You Are Sick.
- Though there is currently no approved antiviral treatment for COVID-19, some over-the-counter (OTC) medications may help relieve fever, body aches and nasal congestion.
- Although rare, some OTC medications can contain traces of gluten. Learn how to effectively evaluate the ingredients in these products.
If You Are Experiencing a Life-Threatening Emergency, Call 911 Immediately:
Emergency warning signs include*:
- Trouble breathing
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion or inability to arouse
- Bluish lips or face
*This list is not all inclusive. Please consult your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning.
If you must be hospitalized, reference our Healthcare Facility Guide for important questions to ask to assure that you are able to maintain a gluten-free diet in the hospital.