The overall cost of childhood food allergies was estimated at nearly $25 billion annually in a study of caregivers that quantified medical, out-of-pocket, lost work productivity and other expenses, according to a report published by JAMA Pediatrics, a JAMA Network publication.
Food allergy is a growing public health issue in the United States that affects about 8 percent of children. The condition results in significant medical costs to the health care system but also inflicts substantial costs on families, including special diets and allergen-free foods, according to the study.
Ruchi Gupta, M.D., M.P.H., of the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago and the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, and colleagues, surveyed 1,643 caregivers of a child with a food allergy. The most common food allergies were peanut (28.7 percent), milk (22.3 percent) and shellfish (18.6 percent).
Overall food allergy costs were $24.8 billion annually or $4,184 per child, according to the results. Total costs included $4.3 billion in direct medical costs and $20.5 billion in annual costs to families.
Caregivers estimated that hospitalizations accounted for the largest proportion of direct medical costs ($1.9 billion), followed by outpatient visits to allergists ($819 million), emergency department visits ($764 million) and pediatrician visits ($543 million). Special diets and allergen-free foods were estimated to cost $1.7 billion annually, while annual lost labor productivity so caregivers could accompany their children to medical visits was $773 million, according to the results.
"In summary, childhood food allergy in the United States places a considerable economic burden on families and society. ... Given these findings, research to develop an effective food allergy treatment and cure is critically needed," the study concludes.
(JAMA Pediatr. Published online September 16, 2013. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.2376. Available pre-embargo to the media at http://media.
Editor's Note: This study was supported by Food Allergy Research Education. Please see the articles for additional information, including other authors, author contributions and affiliations, financial disclosures, funding and support, etc.