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Children's food allergies cost $25 Billion per year, $4,200 per affected family

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New survey research shows that food allergies are getting expensive.

Researchers lead by Dr. Ruchi Gupta, a pediatrician at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago and Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, asked 1,643 parents of children with food allergies questions about the changes they make to accommodate their kids' allergies.

The survey found that the U.S., whose child allergy rate is about 8 percent of the total population, spends about $25 billion per year in costs associated with child food allergies. The average family of kids affected by the allergies spends or misses out on income equal to about $4,185 a year.

The costs are tallied on several fronts. Direct medical costs account for about $4.3 billion of the tab. $773 million more goes to lost productivity as parents take their children to those appointments. Making special arrangements for kids with allergies, including special schools for some, is another $5.5 billion.

The Price of Food Allergies

Many parents stay out of work or become underemployed in order to keep their children safe. Being able to be at school during lunch, or to respond at a moment's notice if something happens, is a reason that more than 9 percent of the parents surveyed said they have either lost work or taken lesser jobs to keep schedules more open. Some were even fired as a result of caring for allergic kids. The survey added these costs up to about $14 billion annually.

The total came to $24.8 billion, which is about $4,185 per child with allergies. Medical insurance pays for only about $4 billion of the nearly $25 billion total.

Equating this number, the surveyors asked parents (on a sliding scale) what they'd be willing to pay for a pill to cure their child's allergy. The average monthly payment response was $3,504. That equals about $20.5 billion per year.

"[Parents] often need to be at school, social events or camp to educate and affirm the seriousness of their child’s condition," the researchers noted in their report. "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."

The report was published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

Photo of cash by John Nyboer.

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