All of this buzz is about a study published in JAMA Pediatrics led by Dr. Ruchi Gupta, a pediatrician at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago and a professor at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine. The researchers surveyed 1,643 parents in the U.S. who have a child with food allergies. The results of the study are that $25 billion is spent each year on costs related to food allergies.
These costs are disproportionately born by the parents of the child, because they relate to things not covered by insurance, such as cost of food, opportunity cost to parents who have to forego work advancements and jobs, and childcare costs. None of this is news to food allergy parents though.
As a food allergy parent, the list of added costs associated with raising a child with food allergies includes:
- Cost of specialty foods.
- Child care- specifically, someone to come to the home, instead of using a daycare center or going to someone else's home.
- Medicines, including 4 sets of epinephrine auto-injectors, one for the nurse at school, one for the kid at school, one for the kid to carry around outside of school, and the spare set at home, a nebulizer and medicine for the neb, a rescue inhaler, Benadryl, Benadryl cream, and steroids.
- Bringing food everywhere we go. Every family party, dinner, wedding, birthday, holiday, restaurant (if we dare), after school programs and activities, ball game, and other food containing events, require us to prepare and bring our daughter's own food. This is true even if it is an event that charges a cover charge which includes food, like PTA events or dinner shows or events. We basically pay for the dinner for our child and then she does not eat it. Instead she eats a second dinner for which we also paid.
- Many food allergy parents happily buy the whole class, troop, team, or group a treat, if it means their child is included and is safe.
- Lost job opportunities or fewer hours at the jobs we have, in order to go to doctors' appointments, to volunteer to be the room parent, or to be the snack mom at the ball games.
While the media immediately goes to questioning why the rates of food allergies have increased whenever they cover any food allergy related topic, including this one, I would love to see discussion of how we can change the tax laws to help defray some of these costs to families of children suffering from food allergies. The current tax laws provide little or no benefit, as they do not include deductions for childcare, purchasing food for others in order to keep your child safe, or lost opportunities. Maybe specialty food could be a separate deduction, not one lumped in with medical costs, with an unattainable threshold.