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Food allergies cost $500 million: What’s your share?

An estimated $500 million is spent annually in the U.S. on food-allergy-related medical care and indirect costs. But could the real amount be even higher?

 

In the first attempt to quantify the U.S. economic cost of food allergies, researchers recently reported that direct and indirect medical costs of food allergies total an estimated $500 million, according to a new study in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology and reported by Reuters. Visits to a doctor’s office made up the bulk of that price tag (52 percent, or $118 million), which also included emergency room care (20 percent, or $45 million), inpatient hospitalizations (12 percent), lost workdays, and even epi-pens.

According to the Reuters article, David Holdford, one of the study authors, notes: “We were surprised that physician visits were more than half of the costs. I think what’s happening is a lot of these (doctor) visits are not for acute visits,” but for helping patients manage or prevent food allergies.

I’m curious: Does that $500 million price tag include money spent on medical visits and procedures if you don’t have a true, life-threatening food allergy but if you “merely” suffer from a food intolerance? Before we traced my son’s ailments to gluten, we spent more than $3,500 on various doctors and tests; I know others have spent a lot more. His intolerance requires a similar, if not critical, level of food-avoidance diligence -- so it makes me wonder how high that price tag might actually be if all food-related reactions were included. And what about lost work productivity if you're self-employed or a student? I'm thinking the actual costs for this growing issue may be quite a bit higher. 

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