Cookery class conundrum : Hi, I’m after... - Gluten Free Guerr...

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Cookery class conundrum


Hi, I’m after advice regarding school cookery classes for my 12 year old son who has Coeliac disease and Autism.

Today he had his first lesson and he’s arrived home from school really distressed because some of the children were using regular gluten-containing flour in the classroom. Although he didn’t handle the flour himself it was airborne and he’s saying he feels unwell.

He struggles to express his feelings so he’s not being very clear (he’s very upset at the moment). I am trying to stay calm and level headed but I am unsure if he’s just extremely anxious about the new school year or he’s feeling unwell because of flour in the air.

I suppose what I’m asking is can Coeliac sufferers become ill by breathing in gluten containing flour?

I’ve googled the question but there’s no clear answer!

10 Replies

Hi. My 14 year old son is extremely sensitive to gluten although has tested negative for coeliac. He has an autoimmune disease (scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, myosotis). He follows an autoimmune diet but during a period of cooking lessons last year he became unwell with swelling and stiffness of his joints. I do think this was triggered by airborne gluten at school. I was very careful about sending him in with gluten free foods, he had his own table to work on and I even sent his own chopping board and utensils. Symptoms settled down as soon as cookery lessons finished (they only do it for a term). I look back and wish I’d just said he had to sit out of those lessons but I didn’t want him to feel excluded. One of his teachers said that she has a sore nose at the end of the school day due to all the flour!!

Hi LizzyCee, thanks so much for you reply. I really want him to feel included in the cooking lessons ( I think that it’s easier for school to say just sit it out) but not if it’s going to make him ill.

The school he attends aren’t at all clued up regarding his Coeliacs but they are trying their best.

My son had added complications when he was younger and before he was diagnosed his diet consisted of bland, beige (gluten containing) foods - he would only tolerate certain tastes and textures.I don’t think I’m ever going to forgive myself knowing now that this was making him so ill. I didn’t know anyone at the time who was a diagnosed Coeliac so it was a shock to get the diagnosis.

His diet is still quite narrow so he has to have regular milk feeds via a feeding tube but he is getting braver and trying new things.

I am arranging a meeting at school to sort this out once and for all.

Thanks again - I think we have it a bit easier than you - you are dealing with so much more!

Perhaps Coeliac UK may be helpful? Perhaps have a look at their site, if you haven’t already.

Scousebrummie in reply to Penel

Hi Peneel

Thanks for the recommendation. I am a member of Coeliac UK and have had a look but it’s not specific enough for me to allow my son to take part in the classes.

He attends a special school and the cookery classes are a little chaotic (he’s in the same class as last year).

He is very badly affected when he’s been glutened, and he gets immediate, severe symptoms so we need to be extremely careful.

I’m all for inclusion but I have to balance this with the effect on my sons health so I’m hoping we can get something sorted to allow him to continue.

I would definitely say that Ingesting flour in the air has made me ill in the past. I don't allow gluten containing flour in my kitchen now so I don't end up ill. I can't touch anything with gluten in it or I get a sore stomach.

I would definitely take my child out of that class especially if it is chaotic and there is not able to be proper control over where the flour goes so no chance of containing cross contamination. I would say that any baking would need a more controlled atmosphere for your son to stay well.

I am also diabetic and am affective by icing sugar in the air. It puts my sugar levels through the roof so I know for definite that by breathing stuff in the air you take it into your system and it makes a difference.

Good luck and I hope your son is OK. X


I can’t even spend more than half an hour in a supermarket without getting symptoms because of the airborne contamination.

If your son really wanted to join the cooking class he could try wearing a mask like the ones designed for cyclists. Our house is completely gf as I am so easily made ill. One of the first things that happens is that I lose my capacity to explain myself and feel really glum and teary, so your son finding it hard emotionally could be part of his symptoms.

I used to teach food technology and yes it caused me problems - get leaflets from Coeliac UK and give them to the food teachers - they should actually know all about it as it is part of the national curriculum (alternative diets) the suggestion about a separate table and own tools sounds right - but it is a case of teaching the school unfortunately - good luck

If you are able, ask if you can observe his cookery class to see if there is something within it causing an issue for him.

You can phone coeliac uk and ask for the childrens pack re schools and how best to deal with it for your son.

If you can send in his own cookery utensils it might make him feel safer too.

Cross contamination is not always well understood as it is a hidden problem. But I am really surprised that those teaching the class seem to be unaware of the issue. Absolutely agree that airborne flour is an issue, breathing it in and getting it on the skin is what set me off with wheat intolerance after working in a commercial bakery for just a few weeks.

I fail to see how they can safely run a class where they are mixing coeliac and non coeliac students in safety. All the kids will be touching common things like equipment, door handles, sinks etc. and cross contamination is inevitable.

Food education is an important life skill for any child, but even more so for coeliacs. Is it an option to sign up with a local cookery school that offers gluten free classes? e.g.

Don't know where you are, this one is in Leeds, but there are others around the UK.

Best wishes,


Wow, just wow! Thank-you all for responding to my question. I thought I was bordering on being paranoid but it seems from your experiences there is definitely an issue with airborne flour.

Thanks again to you all, I really appreciate your help 😊

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