Dealing with a food allergy is no walk in the possibly peanut-filled park — any parent who has a child allergic to nuts, dairy or other foods knows it can be tough to deal with. It’s also a bit of pricy problem for the United States, as a new survey says it costs the country $25 billion a year for conditions that affect about 8% of kids.
Researchers surveyed 1,643 parents from across our fair land who have at least one child with a food allergy, reports the Los Angeles Times. They found a whole slew of expenses that account for that hefty price tag: Doctor’s appointments, hospital stays, trips to the emergency room and other direct medical expenses were about $4.3 billion of the total cost, with the lost productivity of the parents who are responsible for ferrying the kids around on those trips calculated at another $773 million.
Other expenses include buying special foods free of whichever allergen children have to avoid, enrolling them in schools that are equipped to handle food allergies or providing care for kids at places that are totally peanut-free. That adds up to around $5.5 billion, say researchers.
The biggest chunk of change was attributed to parents who stay out of the workforce altogether or take jobs that don’t pay as much so they can take care of their child and attend to his or her medical condition. All of that came to about $14 billion.
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, published online in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. “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 total works out to about $4,184 per child, researchers found, with the costs borne by families at around $20.5 billion after medical expenses covered by health insurance were factored in.
After asking parents how much they would pay every month if they could only cure their kids’ allergies, parents told researchers they’d be willing to shell out, and it worked out to about $3,504. Counting all the kids with a food allergy in the country, that equals about $20.8 billion per year, which is really close to what food allergies actually cost them.
Kids’ food allergies cost U.S. nearly $25 billion a year, study finds [Los Angeles Times]