If your child has celiac, then you know all about the importance of sticking to a gluten free diet and avoiding cross contamination. However, you may not be aware that gluten is an ingredient in some over the counter and prescription medications. I remember what I thought when I learned this – “What? That makes no sense. Why would gluten be in an antibiotic, etc?” But I quickly discovered that wheat starch can be used as an inactive ingredients as a binding agent. Furthermore, as Allergic Living recently reported, unlike packaged foods, there is no official U.S. regulation to label non-medicinal ingredients for gluten content. Which means we have to be gluten detectives in another area to keep our kids safe.
Let me first state that gluten is not in all medications. The first thing that I recommend doing is asking your child’s pediatrician or gastroenterologist to see if they know or can find out which medications are safe for your child. When my little one got her first cold that required antibiotics, I asked the pediatrician and gastroenterologist which brands of amoxicillin were gluten free and they did not know. I then called several pharmacies to ask the question and to find out if they carried gluten free medication. They also were unsure, and so I continued to research on my own.
Celiac Disease Foundation’s website directed me to a Gluten Free Drugs website that is maintained by Steve Plogsted, Pharm.D., BCNSP, CNSC Nutrition Support Pharmacist, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Associate Clinical Professor of Pharmacy, Ohio Northern University College of Pharmacy. His website provides information and lists of gluten free drugs. While it is important to note that you should never use this website in place of medical advice from your children’s doctors, I have found it to be a good initial resource.
What I discovered is that there are many different manufacturers of medications and that asking a doctor or pharmacy an open-ended question like which brands are gluten free is not something they can easily find out. Instead, I look on the Gluten Free Drugs website for brand names of a particular medication that are listed as gluten free, and then I take those names back to our doctors and pharmacies to have them verify that they are in fact gluten free and to see if the pharmacy carries it.
Over the Counter Medications
In the case of over the counter medications, I call the manufacturer listed on the packaging to ask if the product is gluten free before administering it.
In summary, it is not always an easy process navigating over the counter and prescription medications, but I hope that the information I’ve provided here will help. And please remember, to give yourself a pat on the back sometimes because you are doing a great job caring for your celiac family member.