Children & Celiac Disease Part 1: Educating Teachers and Caregivers

Written by Linda Arnold - Edited by Daniel Saraga

Celiac disease will affect some aspects of care in day homes, the classroom and/or school management. Patience and understanding can bring about necessary changes that will quickly become a natural part of the day for all involved.

What is Celiac disease?

Celiac disease is a genetic disorder that can affect both children and adults. When children or adults with Celiac disease eat certain types of grain based proteins, it sets off an autoimmune response which causes damage to the small intestine. This in turn interferes with the small intestine to absorb the nutrients in food, leading to malnutrition and a variety of other complications. The offending proteins are called gluten and are found in wheat, barley, oats, rye and all their derivatives.

Exposure to gluten may result in a variety of symptoms which can include diarrhoea, abdominal distension, fatigue and inability to concentrate. In a small amount of people the disease manifests itself in small itchy blisters on the skin called dermatitis herpetiformis (DH). No two individuals with Celiac exhibit the exact same symptoms.

Tip: refer to the Edmonton Chapter of the Canadian Celiac Association for more in depth information.

How is Celiac disease treated?

This is a lifelong disease and at this time the only know treatment is total elimination of gluten from the diet. This may sound easy at first however gluten is hidden in many things like food additives, flavouring, personal care items, school supplies and more. Therefore adjustments may need to be made in the classroom and play area to reduce the risk of inadvertent contact (cross contamination).

Whose responsibility is it?

In younger children or those that may be unable to read label information it is vitally important for the care giver or teacher to encourage self management skills by reading the ingredients to the child. For older children, it should be the responsibility of the child to decide what he or she will eat and touch while at school and the consequences of those decisions. However a newly diagnosed student may need help to reinforce the prescribed lifestyle change.

Read Children & Celiac Disease Part 2: Helping Children Manage a Celiac Disease Diagnosis
Read Children & Celiac Disease Part 3: Eating Gluten Free at School

Reference for this article:

The Canadian Celiac Association
The American Celiac Sprue Association
Moms with kids

Gluten Free Edmonton - A Celiac guide and resource for gluten free information in Edmonton, Alberta