I’ve been taking the opposite approach (i.e. correcting people so they know celiac is not an allergy). The problem is that when people think in terms of an allergy they use what they know about other allergies in order to understand celiac. That in itself leads to misunderstandings.
I was thinking about this. I know that alot of us say we are "allergic" to wheat to make someone understand - like the counter person at Wendy's. So, even tho I'm not allergic to wheat, I sometimes say I am. I think its easier to understand sometimes.
Consider a common allergy that everyone knows about, such as hay fever.
If I have hay fever and inhale a single grain of pollen, I probably won’t have an allergic reaction. If I do, it will be so slight that I won’t even know it. On the other hand, if someone throws a handful of pollen in my face, I will have a strong allergic reaction.
People understand that the severity of an allergic reaction is proportional to the exposure to the allergen.
Using this understanding of allergies, people who are told celiac is an allergy will believe that a gluten reaction is proportional to the exposure to gluten. If a celiac eats a loaf of bread, they will get very sick. Conversely, if they eat a single bread crumb, they will not sick.
Using this understanding, people have a very difficult time understanding the significance of cross-contamination. If a lot of gluten must be consumed, how can bread crumbs in a toaster or a little wheat flour dust cause any problem. Obviously, celiacs must be whining babies.
Also, understanding celiac as an allergy and not as an autoimmune condition causes people to not consider the damage done beyond the supposed allergic reaction of gas, bloating and D.
That said, I certainly agree with everyone that making people understand is a difficult, if not unsolvable, problem.