It’s ironic that eating gluten-free in a hospital can be a challenge, but just as with restaurants, gluten-free diet awareness and procedures vary. When you’re a patient, you will need to be prepared to educate your care team about your gluten-free diet needs. This includes your doctor, nurse, dietician, and cafeteria manager.
When being admitted to a hospital, you will be asked about your allergies. Even though celiac disease or gluten intolerance is not an “allergy” to gluten, hospital staffs understand what the term allergy means and it’s important to include gluten in the allergy category for your medical chart. You may want to clarify “gluten” by also saying wheat, barely, rye, and oats (oats in a hospital will most likely be contaminated, so mention them!).
Make a card for your wallet that includes a list of your allergies and intolerances, including gluten. Bring a document that explains celiac disease and the foods you can’t eat. This can be given to members of your care team to include in your chart for quick reference, as well as passed to the cafeteria personnel responsible for preparing your meals. Also, make sure that the person responsible for submitting your prescriptions asks the pharmacist to check for gluten in each medication.
If you have time on your side before being admitted to a hospital (if you’re having a baby, a scheduled surgery, or any other preplanned hospital stay), call ahead to speak with the appropriate person who can help facilitate gluten-free meals for you in advance.
But always take some gluten-free foods with you, including snacks you can keep in your room and foods that can be prepared for you, like creamy rice cereal or even pure, gluten-free oatmeal if you can tolerate the oats.
On the other hand, if you are visiting someone in the hospital and need to eat there, approach the situation as you would with cafeterias, bars, restaurants, and salad bars, extremely proactive and cautious.