$25 billion price tag for kids’ food allergies
Food allergies in kids are not only increasingly common, they’re expensive, say experts.
According to a new study in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, childhood food allergies cost the United States nearly $25 billion a year in medical fees, lost work productivity and family expenses.
Researchers surveyed more than 1,600 parents across the country who have at least one child with a food allergy. They found that annual food allergy-related costs were almost $4,200 per child, which works out to $24.8 billion a year nationwide.
About $4.3 billion of those costs involve direct medical fees such as doctor’s appointments, hospital stays and trips to the emergency room. Though these are significant costs to the health care system, the researchers found the largest financial burden to be on the parents.
Families affected by food allergies paid $5.5 billion per year out-of-pocket, an average of $931 per child, on things such as allergen-free foods, medication and special child care arrangements, the study estimated.
However, the biggest cost by far was the money parents gave up by staying out of the workforce or taking lesser jobs to accommodate their children’s medical condition. Over nine percent of the parents surveyed had incurred some type of work-related opportunity cost, which when added up totaled $14 billion a year.
“Unlike other common childhood diseases in which most costs are borne by the health system, childhood food allergy disproportionately burdens family finances,” the researchers noted in their report. “Given these findings, research to develop an effective food allergy treatment and cure is critically needed.”
Until a cure exists, certain children’s allergies can be managed with medication and are sometimes outgrown, according to Dr. Ronit Asherson, a pediatrician at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Ill.
“It’s common for kids to outgrow some food allergies, especially milk or soy,” said Dr. Asherson. “It’s important that parents see an allergist to help them monitor and manage a food allergy over time as their child grows.”
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