Food Allergies More Expensive For Lower-Income Families

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It isn’t cheap to raise a child with food allergies and many families spend more than their mortgage payment on expensive allergen-friendly foods, but it’s also not a fixed cost.

How much a parent spends out-of-pocket depends on their annual household income.


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A study conducted at Northwestern University examined 1,643 caregivers of food-allergic children split into three income groups: less than $50,000, between $50,000 and $100,000, and more than $100,000.

The study showed that lower-income households were less likely to be able to afford preventative treatments, allergen-friendly specialty foods, allergy tests, and specialist appointments for their children with food allergies because they required paying out of pocket. Sadly, even the cost of keeping epinephrine auto-injectors on hand is too steep for some families. 

Families earning more than $100,000 spend more of their own money on specialists and medication compared to lower-income families. Because children from families earning less than $50,000 are less likely to have this extended care, they’re more likely to wind up in the ER with a severe allergic reaction … and that means their parents are spending two and a half times more on ER visits and hospital stays than higher-income families.

One of the most surprising discoveries was that families of African American children with food allergies reported fewer ER visits and spent the least on out-of-pocket costs, which has prompted researchers to want to look more closely at food allergies in different populations.

Study leader Dr. Ruchi Gupta estimates the U.S. population spends $24.8 billion a year in an attempt to prevent and treat allergic reactions. Food allergies affect more than 8% of U.S. children, with nearly 40% of those children reported to experience a life-threatening reaction.

Gupta says lower-income families need improved access to preventative measures in order to keep their children safe, and the next step is figuring out how to make those changes.

H/T Los Angeles Times

Heather Laura Clarke, a contributing writer at Scratch or Sniff, lives in Nova Scotia, Canada, with her high-school sweetheart husband, seven-year-old son, and five-year-old daughter. She writes for newspapers and magazines across Canada and the U.S., and blogs about her family life at Heather's Handmade Life. Follow her adventures on Twitter or Instagram.

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