A new study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, aimed to estimate the economic impact of children’s food allergies in the U.S. The researchers examined both the economic impacts and the willingness of caregivers to pay for treatment for food allergies. They examined a representative sample of caregivers for a child with a food allergy, looking at the period from November 28, 2011 to January 26, 2012.
Results of the study showed that the total national economic impact from children’s food allergies was $24.8 billion or $4,184 per year per child with an allergy. Direct medical costs accounted for $4.3 billion annually. Direct medical costs include emergency department visits, hospitalizations, and clinician visits. For the families of children with food allergies, the annual cost was $20.5 billion. This amount includes time off for medical visits, out-of-pocket medical costs, opportunity costs, lost productivity, and opportunity costs. As a whole, caregivers were willing to pay more than the amount borne by families in total.
Medscape describes food allergies as immunologically mediated adverse reactions to foods. The person may suffer from an acute onset of symptoms following ingestion of the triggering food allergen or the person may develop and suffer from a chronic disorder. Some of the symptoms of food allergies that have been observed in clinical settings are food-induced anaphylactic reaction that may involve the skin, gastrointestinal tract, and respiratory tract.
While it is possible for any food protein to trigger an allergic reaction and a large number of foods have been documented as being clinical allergens, the majority of reactions can be accounted for with a small group of foods. Some of the more common food allergies confirmed in clinical settings are eggs, milk, peanuts, soy, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, and wheat. The confirmation of these allergens has occurred through well-controlled, blinded food challenges that are medically supervised. In addition to these common allergens, sesame appears to be an emerging allergen.
According to an earlier National Monitor article, food allergies are increasingly common in the U.S. Currently, an estimated four to six percent of children are suffering from allergies. Food allergen exposure is also responsible for an estimated 300,000 emergency room visits for children. A severe response to allergens, known as anaphylaxis, has a 30 percent fatality rate. Scientists have also discovered that food allergies are not always permanent. For example, as many as 20 percent of people stop having peanut allergies as they get older.