Coeliac disease and coronavirus (COVID-19)
Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a new illness that can affect the lungs and airways.
As coronavirus is a new illness, there is very limited research specifically looking at the risk to people with coeliac disease. Throughout the pandemic, we have been in contact with our Health Advisory Council (HAC), a group of key health experts working in coeliac disease, who continue to advise us as the situation develops. We will continue to keep our information updated as things can change - – including information on the vaccination rollout.
You can read more about how we’ve been helping our gluten free community to get through the pandemic in our Coronavirus Hub. You’ll find practical resources on finding gluten free food, keeping busy, and preventing loneliness.
What should I be doing as a patient with coeliac disease to protect me most from Coronavirus?
- Continue to follow the relevant guidance for your country (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales) which is being updated on a regular basis and is the best place to go to for the latest information and guidance. Follow their advice to try and keep yourself safe.
- Make sure you follow a strict gluten free diet, which is the treatment for coeliac disease.
- We will continue to be in contact with our Health Advisory Council, a group of key health experts working in coeliac disease, who continue to advise us as the situation develops.
- Please don’t feel alone. We are here to help and we have a vibrant social media community. We have a range of services to support you on your gluten free diet, including our Coronavirus Hub.
Frequently Asked Questions
We’ve collated your most Frequently Asked Questions about coronavirus and coeliac disease for you to read here, including questions on who is in the clinically vulnerable category – you can also find this information at the bottom of this page.
We also asked a member of our HAC, Dr Peter Gillett for his view on some of the key questions we received at the beginning of the pandemic on our Helpline and social media networks, which you can read here.
Who is classed as clinically vulnerable?
Two groups who are considered to be vulnerable have been identified:
- People who are clinically extremely vulnerable, who were advised to follow shielding advice at the start of the pandemic. People with coeliac disease who have no other health conditions do not fall into this category.
- People who are clinically vulnerable. This group is based around people who are offered the annual flu jab and includes everyone over 70 and people with certain medical conditions. Read on for more on this category and people with coeliac disease.
People with coeliac disease may have reduced spleen function and this is the reason why certain vaccinations (including the flu vaccination) may be offered to people with coeliac disease. As the clinically vulnerable group has been based on who is offered the flu vaccine, people with coeliac disease may fall into this category.
Having reduced spleen function is not the same as having your spleen removed (also called splenectomy). People who have had their spleen removed are considered clinically extremely vulnerable in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland but are not explicitly mentioned in the guidance from Wales. In England, the guidance on who is considered clinically extremely vulnerable says “people with problems with your spleen, e.g. splenectomy (having your spleen removed)” and so is less clear than in the other nations where splenectomy is the only spleen condition mentioned.
We have been in contact with Public Health England who earlier this year agreed with the position of our Health Advisory Council, that people with coeliac disease should assess their level of risk on an individual basis with the support of their local healthcare team. People with coeliac disease could consider themselves to be clinically vulnerable due to the risk of reduced spleen function and follow the associated advice.
The risk of hyposplenism to children with coeliac disease is very low and the risk for adults is likely to be low, particularly for individuals who have had the recommended pneumococcal vaccination, have been diagnosed and following a strict gluten free diet for several years and are otherwise healthy.
The guidance on who is clinically vulnerable is also being used as part of the prioritisation for the covid-19 vaccine rollout. You can read more about this here.