Tricia Thompson, MS, RD is a nutrition consultant, author and speaker specializing in celiac disease and the gluten-free diet. She is the author of The Gluten-Free Nutrition Guide and has a MS degree in nutrition from Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts and a BA degree in English Literature from Middlebury College in Vermont.

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Living Gluten-Free

by Tricia Thompson, MS, RD, The Gluten-Free Dietitian
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Recently I was asked about adhesives used on stickers (the type children play with) and whether they might contain wheat. Unfortunately there is a lot of misinformation floating around stating that adhesives on stickers, stamps, and envelopes often contain wheat starch. There are even claims out there stating that self-adhesive varieties of these products are harmful because they contain gluten and gluten is absorbed into the skin.

Bottom line: You really should not be concerned about gluten in adhesives used on stamps, envelopes, and stickers. Here’s why…

First of all, there is no reason to believe that gluten is absorbed through the skin. As I wrote in Gluten in Personal Care Products: A Need to Worry? posted on July 14, 2009,

“There is no scientific evidence that the use of gluten-containing products that are not ingested is harmful to persons with celiac disease. This includes individuals with dermatitis herpetiformis.

According to Dr. Alessio Fasano, Medical Director of the Center for Celiac Research, University of Maryland, "If you have celiac disease, then the application of gluten containing products to the skin should not be a problem, unless you have skin lesions that allow gluten to be absorbed systemically in great quantities.

The reason why this should not be a problem is that, based on what we know right now, it is the oral ingestion of gluten that activates the immunological cascades leading to the autoimmune process typical of celiac disease.”

There aren’t too many individuals on the planet who know more about celiac disease than Dr. Fasano, so please, do not let anyone, including medical professionals convince you that gluten protein can be absorbed through the skin and cause a celiac disease reaction. It simply isn’t true.”

So, if you are using self-adhesive stickers, self-adhesive stamps, or self-adhesive envelopes there really is no need to worry about whether they contain wheat starch. You don’t have to lick them and if there is any wheat starch in the product, it will not be absorbed through the skin. If you are worried anyway, simply wash your hands after handling these products. When it comes to stickers, stamps, and envelopes that require moistening, there also is no need to worry. Don’t lick them! Use water instead of saliva to moisten them.

BUT, if you still want to know whether these products contain wheat starch, read on…

A little background ...    Continue

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@ 11:41am ET on January 26, 2010
It's a good update on this topic. The "urban myths" abound but solid research should guide us!

@ 10:10pm ET on January 26, 2010
It's always nice to see a well researched article on certain myths of gluten contamination.

That said...there is one aspect of this that I thought to be lacking in practicality and safety. For parents like myself, gluten on the skin of a celiac child - whether from stickers, lotion, soap, whatEVER - is not of concern because I think it is absorbed into their skin.

I've yet to personally meet anyone who still had that opinion.

We are concerned because kids put things in their mouths, including their hands. And if they have gluten on their hands, obviously that's an issue. It is not practical to monitor every moment of our child's day, staring intently for the slightest movement towards their mouth so that we can stop it.

We can watch them, and keep the environment as gluten free as possible, and try to teach them to keep their hands out of their mouths if they haven't washed them, but it's still a few years before that actually works consistently.

So to have the comment "simply wash your hands after handling these products" is fine advice for adults...but, frankly, seems rather shortsighted with regards to children. And considering that this article first started with mentioning stickers used by children, I expected advice that would be useful in dealing with children as well.

I would have more appreciated advice to learn from this article and other articles on what contains gluten, and keep the house gluten free until a child is old enough to be safe.

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