Hospital Stays Made Safe
Published January, 2020
Full version of this article is in the print pdf.
Being admitted to the hospital can be a stressful experience, especially for those with celiac disease or other gluten-related disorders. Whether you are there for a day-surgery or for three weeks in rehabilitation, the hospital should be doing everything it can to meet your need for a gluten-free diet. Share this information with your family and your health care providers (Dietitian, Pharmacist, Physicians) to ensure the best possible care while you are staying at the hospital.
Make certain that your family members know where this guide is located and bring it with you to your hospital stay.
Keep this guide with your list of current medications and name and address of all health care providers.
Give this guide to the nurse manager for the area of the hospital where you will be staying. Also give a copy to the pre-admission nurse to make certain that a copy is placed on the front of your chart or documented in your computerized chart. Request that it be seen easily by everyone accessing your chart.
Request a written physician’s order for a gluten-free diet. Make sure that the Dr.’s Orders label you as having an “allergy” so that all personnel in the hospital will be aware of your dietary restrictions. If you are planning an admission, make an appointment to see someone in each department listed here, as applicable, (pre-op, surgery, medical/surgery, pharmacy, nutrition services-dietitian, rehabilitation, etc.) prior to your admission.
Request an allergy wristband. You may also request that “Celiac Disease: All foods and medications must be verified gluten-free” be printed in BOLD writing on your chart, at your bedside, or on the front of your door.
Ask if you may use your medication from home and if you can bring food to be stored in your room. If allowed, mark all food with your full name and room number.
If this is an emergency visit, as soon as you are settled, contact the hospital Registered Dietitian. If you are too ill to do this, have a family member or care giver who understands your gluten-free diet do this. Not all dietary staff members are necessarily familiar with this diet (Diet Technicians, Nutrition Assistants, Meal Assistants, etc.), so make sure you talk directly with the Dietitian.
Work with the Dietitian. Discuss the hospital procedures used to determine which foods are gluten-free and how they are prepared in the kitchen. Find out who is responsible for approving the “gluten-free” foods.
Bring some survival basics from home if the situation permits. Gluten-free cookies, crackers, condiments, and a box of cereal are easy to store in hospital rooms. A portable cooler or refrigerator that works on a car battery or small electrical outlet attachment can keep some items fresh and safe to eat. Mark all food with your full name and room number.
For a planned visit, inquire about available gluten-free food options. Is there a gluten-free menu, and how does meal ordering work? Ask about what procedures are in place in the kitchen to prevent cross-contact of gluten-free foods with gluten-containing items.