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.