ATLANTA (CBS ATLANTA) – Food allergies affecting children cost the U.S. nearly $25 billion in lost work productivity, special medical care and parents having to stay out of the workforce.
According to a new study from pediatrician Dr. Ruchi Gupta of Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, the hefty price tag comes from allergies that affect 8 percent of American children. Hospital stays, emergency room trips and doctor bills accounted for $4.3 billion of the cost.
However, the largest cost — $14.2 billion — came from parents of the allergic children who are forced to take lesser jobs, have their job restricted or have no job at all in order to accommodate their child.
Nine percent of parents surveyed in the study reported some type of work-related opportunity cost.
“Although assessing lost opportunities is complex, evidence now suggests that childhood food allergy has a profound effect on families’ finances by altering caregivers’ careers,” wrote the researchers.
Of the direct medical costs, hospitalizations accounted for about $1.9 billion of the cost, while visits to allergists accounted for $819 million. Emergency room visits accounted for $764 million of these costs and pediatrician visits added up to $543 million.
The total for these expenses came to $24.8 billion a year, or $4,184 per child, the researchers found.
After removing medical expenses that would be covered by health insurance, the costs borne by families was $20.5 billion.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, allergic conditions are among the most common medical conditions affecting children in the United States. An allergic condition is a hypersensitivity disorder in which the immune system reacts to substances in the environment that are normally considered harmless.
A 2013 CDC study also found that the prevalence of food and skin allergies increased by about 2 percent for children under the age of 17 between the years of 1997-2011.