Q: Can a person with celiac disease have symptoms from airborne gluten? I was volunteering at a food pantry, I was putting bagels, cookies muffins into individual bags. I did have plastic gloves on, but today I was having some celiac symptoms.
Gluten has to get into the GI tract to cause a reaction in celiac disease. Inhaling is one route through which gluten could potentially be ingested. If you are exposed to airborne flour there is potential that it will get into the nose, mouth, throat and get swallowed down into the GI tract. Therefore, we do not recommend that people with celiac disease be exposed to breathing in flour, and should avoid baking or other activities that cause flour to be dispersed into the air.
However, gluten cannot enter the digestive tract through skin contact. The issue with skin contact is that you can get it into your mouth through cross-contact, for instance touching foods with gluten and then touching your mouth. In your case, you used gloves while handling the gluten containing foods, so it is unlikely you would have had cross-contact from skin to your mouth.
It is also important to note that it would not be safe to prepare gluten-free foods near gluten containing foods or if flour is dispersed in the air due to the risk of cross-contact.
- Kasim S, Moriarty J, Liston R. Nonresponsive celiac disease due to inhaled gluten. N Engl J Med. 2007; 356:2548-2549. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc063112 Accessed 1 April 2019
Note: This information is provided by NCA and Katarina Mollo MEd, RDN, LDN, NCA's Director of Education. This information is meant for educational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for personalized medical advice or replace any medical advice provided directly to you by your health care provider. No liability is assumed by the NCA or Katarina Mollo, MEd, RDN, LDN by providing this information.