The high costs of food allergy

Between the near constant worry and strict monitoring of every type of food in the area, parenting a child with food allergy can be nerve-wracking and exhausting.

And according to research published by JAMA Pediatrics, it can also be extremely expensive.

The data shows pediatric food allergies cost an estimated $24.8 billion each year in the U.S, with a majority of that money coming from lost wages and missed career opportunities of the parents of children with food allergies whose jobs take a back seat to managing their child’s condition.

“A child’s food allergy often affects more than just his or her physical health, it impacts the whole family in a number of ways,” says John Lee, MD, director of Boston Children’s Hospital Food Allergy Program. “Depending on the severity of the allergy, keeping the child healthy can be more demanding and time consuming than a full-time job, leaving some parents with little time for employment.”

Because of their conditions, many children with serious food allergies need special supervision any time they’re not under the watchful eye of mom or dad. For many of these parents, activities others take for granted, like sending a child off on a play date or asking a neighborhood teenager to babysit for a few hours, aren’t safe options. Even trusting the child’s care to a teacher can be too much for some. (Lee estimates that as many as 10 percent of families with severe food allergy opt to homeschool their children to ensure their safety during the day.)

as many as 10 percent of families with severe food allergy opt to homeschool their children

“Food allergies present unique challenges not often seen in other conditions,” he says. “For instance, if your child has a chronic illness that’s managed by medication there’s a routine to the treatment that you can plan around, giving you some predictability. But a reaction could happen at any given moment, and may require immediate response by someone versed in how to use an ephedrine shot. It’s a lot of responsibility and if you don’t have the proper support systems it can easily consume all your time.”

The Food Allergy Program at Boston Children’s is specifically designed to provide some of that support by addressing many of the facets of allergy treatment. Structured so families see a group of specialists trained in various aspects of allergy management in one setting, the program offers “one-stop-shopping” approach to care. This unique setting not only improves the coordination of care for the patient, but also reduces the time family spends driving to and from appointments or waiting in multiple offices.

“Our team treats all facets of food allergies by addressing the medical, dietary, social and psychological concerns that often accompanies these conditions. And because it’s done in a clinic setting, our experts meet as a team to discuss every case and ensure everyone is on the same page, ” Lee says. “In the end it means our patients receive complete, multidisciplinary treatment without having to take additional time out of their already busy lives.”

Not all cases require a complete team of specialists, but if needed the Food Allergy Program offers care from:

allergists who specialize in diagnosing and treating allergic conditions

dieticians to teach your family how to avoid unsafe foods while choosing safe, nutritious (and good tasting) ones

social workers to provide a range of psychosocial services, inside and outside of Boston Children’s

psychologists who, if needed, work with families to create tailored problem-solving skills that help all family members manage anxiety about food allergies

nurses that are the clinic’s primary educators, teaching patients and their families about food allergy and its treatments

Want to make an appointment with the experts from the Food Allergy Program? Please call 855 375-3663 (FOOD) or email facets@childrens.harvard.edu

One thought on “The high costs of food allergy

  1. I wear my hyper-vigilance like a badge on my arm each day. When my son was young just getting through a school day felt like a miracle. I have tailored my place of work and work schedule so that I can be as close as possible to my son’s school and hospital where he would be brought in case of emergency. Then before you know it, you have a routine and it becomes “the new normal”. Education is really the key and the wonderful allergy programs at Boston Children’s Hospital are leading the way : )

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