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Children’s Allergies Cost the U.S. around $25 Billion Per Year

Update Date: Sep 17, 2013 09:38 AM EDT
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For a young child, dealing with food allergies can be tough since they have to watch every thing they eat or risk a potentially fatal reaction. Even though the allergies might be directly affecting the children, parents are also negatively affected because they have to worry about what kinds of food their children might come into contact with once they are no longer home. Aside from the family, food allergies are also costing the country a lot of money. According to a new study, researchers estimated that food allergies cost the United States around $25 billion every year.

In this study, the research team headed by Dr. Ruchi Gupta, a pediatrician from Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago and a professor at the Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, interviewed 1,643 parents across the nation. The parents all had at least one kid with a food allergy. The researchers calculated that the overall cost was $24.8 billion a year or $4,184 per child. The annual cost was reduced to $20.5 billion if health insurance was taken into account.

The researchers found that the biggest cost that resulted from the children's food allergies was the income parents were forced to give up to tend to their children's medical situation. 9.1 percent of the parents reported that their children's allergies reduced some type of work-related opportunity cost. The team calculated that the lost of work-related tasks cost the U.S. $14 billion. The second leading cost, which totaled $5.5 billion that was caused by the medical condition, was caring for the allergies by buying special foods, putting children in allergy-sensitive schools and making special arrangements for their children to attend facilities that have banned certain allergic foods.

The third group of costs added up doctor appointments, hospital stays, emergency room stays and other medical expenses. This group accounted for $4.3 billion. The last section was the cost of lost productivity of the parents who had to go to these appointments. This accounted for $773 million.

"[Parents] often need to be at school, social events, or camp to educate and affirm the seriousness of their child's condition," the authors wrote according to the LA Times. "In case of an emergency, caregivers may not be able or willing to take a job that requires travel or many hours away from their child."

Food allergies affect around eight percent of American children. The most common food allergies are peanuts, milk and shellfish. The study was published in JAMA Pediatrics.

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