What happens when your kid gets gluttened?

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We've just come back from a horrible experience.  My daughter Ruth was given the wrong pasta at a well known chain of restaurants and she's been really poorly for the last 3 hours, with horrible vomiting and cramps.  Although I know it's best to keep these postings from being over emotional, as a mum, there cannot be a worse sight then seeing your child in pain and feeling so desperately ill .  The look of absolute panic on her face on the train is something I will never forget. .  My concern is that this experience unlike previous ones, will make her feel nervous and anxious about eating out.  God knows, I certainly feel very anxious when we venture out to the point of total neurosis, because I hate not being in control.  This is why we select places where we feel safe and where we know that beyond serving gluten free food, there is a good understanding from all of the staff, not just the chef, of what gluten free means.

Today has been a real wake up call.  There needs to be much more training of front of house staff, much more awareness of cross contamination issues and a lot less wheat and gluten in foods.  Chef's need to be more aware and better trained in allergens and cross contamination.  They also need to understand that there are lots of gluten free foods available and lots of dishes which are naturally gluten free. There needs to be more choice too.  The more widely available gluten free food is, the more chefs will understand that gluten free food doesn't have to be special food.  They need to get more naturally gluten free items on the menu, available to everyone.  So, what I am saying is that it's less about the food, and more about understanding what it means to be gluten free. 

As far as symptoms, these can vary a lot but as a guide, your child may experience any or all of the following:

  • Stomach cramps
  • diaohorea
  • vomiting
  • constipation
  • aching limbs
  • tiredness
  • fatigue
  • extreme irritability

The symptoms can appear anywhere from a few hours of ingesting, to up to 36 hours after consuming gluten.  It can be difficult to tell if your child is unwell for some other reason, say a stomach bug or flu or something else.  However, if you suspect gluten poisoning, you should be able to trace back what your child has eaten and when.  Like food poisoning, it is difficutl to pinpoint exactly when and where and often people don't bother to report incidents. But if you suspect there has been a problem, I would recommend contacting the restaurant or eating establishment as soon as possible to inform them of what's happened.  Keep a note of your conversations and ask them for a written report of what has gone wrong.

It is also a good idea to check on line to see if anyone else has had a similar experience.  Often restaurants will apologise and say it was an isolated incident.  Chances are, it's happened before and it's important to make sure the restaurant not only has procedures in place, but has a system of monitoring staff to make sure they are actually adhering to the guidelines. 

Lastly, I offer you some handy hints to keep in mind  if your child is poorly while you are away from home

  • Keep calm and be reassuring- it can be quite scary for a child
  • Always take a pack of baby wipes with you and some tissues in your bag
  • Travel with a bottle of water
  • Explain what is happening and why
  • Keep a large plastic carrier bag in your car for emergencies and also a roll of paper towels ready
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nitchy's picture
nitchy wrote 10 years 43 weeks ago


I have just stumbled across your website and feel some relief that there are others out there with little ones like mine. My son, aged 7 has been suffereing all of his little life and has recently been diagnosed with a gluten intolerance, although he is not a celioac. He had constant upset tummy, was irritable and always poorly. Now on a gluten free and dairy free diet he has grown and put on weight, but has developed a very unhealthy outlook of food, frightened to try anything new which is causing us big problems. On a recent family holiday we too suffered a poisioning incident which made him so poorly. He was violently sick which burnt his throat leaving him screaming in pain. I unfortunatly feel pretty abandoned by the health authorities whom have left us to get on with it. Food is so expensive and we do not recieve any help or support as it is deamed as an intolerace. I am looking forward to trying your brownie recipie with dairy substitues of course! Thank you for some light at the end of a very dark tunnel!

adriana's picture
adriana wrote 10 years 43 weeks ago

Sorry to hear this

Hi Nitchy,

Thanks for posting this.  I am sorry to hear about your little one. I think his reaction is completely understandable.  My daughter is very nervous about eating out now and we have to work really hard to reassure her that we have checked it all out (as far as one can do).  Be patient with your son and I recommend that despite the frustration of having a child who is fussy and won't try things ( I have one of those too- but fortunately she is improving) don't make eating times a battle ground.  Introduce new things slowly and always allow him to be in control.  One of the best ways I find is to get them involved in the cooking.  I know it can be messy but pick a time when you are relaxed and he can help you make something in the kitchen.  Do not put any pressure on him to try it- but let him initiate things and if you do this on a reguar basis you might find that he becomes less nervous around food he is unfamiliar with.  In the early years I would let my daughter make all sorts of concotions in the kitchen using different bits and pieces.  This was not for eating but for letting her experiment with different foods.  She also used to set up a gluten free cafe for me, where I could come and be served some of her gluten free specialties!  It's a bit of fun, and just takes some of the pressure off. The other thing I would recommend is to get in touch with other children in the area who are coeliacs so that he can see that there are other children with similar issues. Do keep in touch and I hope that things improve.