The Cost of Food Allergies: A $25B Epidemic

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Food allergies cost the average American family more than $4,000 per year. Every year the number of families affected rise and so do the costs. Is there a solution for this $25 billion epidemic?

The cost of food allergies is a burden millions of parents face on a daily basis. Doctors visits, epi-pens, and alternative foods are immediate costs for most families. Yet, the larger and long term costs are often overlooked. Parents with allergic children often struggle with financial and emotional burdens.

In this article, you’ll learn:

  • How common are food allergies?
  • What is the financial impact of food allergies
  • New research on preventing food allergies

Food Allergies on the Rise

Food allergies in children have been on the rise for decades. Children suffering from a peanut allergy have even tripled in recent decades. 

According to the CDC, more than 8% of American children suffer from a food allergy.

According to the CDC 8% of children suffer from food allergies. The most common peanut, egg and milk affect millions of American children. 

Despite the rise in food allergies and increased awareness, children with allergies remain at risk. In 2016, emergency room visits doubled for anaphylaxis in children from just 6 years prior. These trends don’t seem to be reversing and the cause is hard to pinpoint.

Experts suggest the rise of food allergies can not be blamed on a single culprit. Changing genetic and environmental factors over the last 35 years has led to a tenfold increase in adults who have allergies.

Other theories include

  • Food Allergen Avoidance – The LEAP study showed that babies who avoid peanuts during their first year are more at risk for allergy.
  • Vitamin D Insufficiency – Low levels of vitamin D in babies may be a risk factor for allergy development
  • The Hygiene Hypothesis- Failure to expose babies to certain germs and allergens may be related to lower immune system tolerance. Meaning, babies are more likely to develop food allergies.
  • Dual Allergen Exposure Hypothesis – Newer research shows early oral consumption of allergens can promote tolerance and reduce risk. While skin exposure alone may do more harm and increase allergy risk. 

The Financial Impact of Food Allergies 

Unpacking the $25 billion spent on food allergies comes down to 4 major costs:

  • Direct medical costs
  • Out of pocket costs
  • Lost work productivity
  • Forgone work opportunities 

A survey conducted by Ruchi Gupta, MD, MPH, of Northwestern University found the average yearly cost of allergies was $4,184 annually. National spending on food allergies alongside individual spending per child per household accrue to well over 25 billion. 

Living with a food allergy is more expensive when parents must make dietary choices to protect their child from exposure to allergens. 

The indirect costs however, including lost work productivity and forgone work opportunities cost parents much more. 

Opportunity costs are one of the biggest financial hardships associated with food allergies. Parents with allergenic children know special attention must be paid to their child’s diet and social life to avoid allergy related distress. This might mean preparing special foods, assuring friends and family prevent allergen interaction. For more severe cases, parents may ultimately choose to stay home to provide greater care for their allergenic child.

This time taken away from parents and their careers often leads to less work opportunities and/or loss of productivity. It might mean a promotion for someone with less out of office commitments, or missed work travel opportunities. Parents with allergenic children know they are the best line of defense from a serious hospital visit or a severe allergic reaction. Taking the time to better care for their child can divert attention from their careers and business, leading to greater financial strain. 

For lower income parents, health care may be the greatest cost. With insurance for doctors visits and medication being non-existent or overpriced. Research on how allergies affect the family budget range in their cost breakdowns. However, it can be said with certainty that having a child with a food allergy is more expensive than one without food allergies. 

The cost of EpiPens alone has become a serious concern for parents. For $650 you can buy 2 EpiPen auto-injectors, or you can buy generic for just under $400. The outrageous cost has led to outcries of price gouging. Forcing parents to choose between the life saving drug and  a trip to the emergency room. Children who lose their EpiPens, and EpiPens that expire make this a recurring expense. Every 18 months parents need to replace the expired EpiPens, this includes the emergency EpiPen in your purse, in the car, and at school. 

New Research on Preventing Food Allergies 

Food allergy can be a lifelong burden both financially and socially. Recent landmark studies show that this burden can be prevented, but not reversed. Meaning parents have a short window of time to act. Otherwise, parents can expect to lose upwards of $4,000 a year managing their child’s food allergy and symptoms. 

Recent landmark studies (LEAP, EAT, PETIT) show an up to 80%  protection from food allergies for babies who are exposed to allergenic foods such as peanut, milk and eggs early and regularly. Medical guidelines from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI) support early allergen introduction as the most effective solution.  

Learn more about the Learning Early about Peanut (LEAP) Study from the New England Journal of Medicine:

When allergens are introduced to babies early and often, they are 80% less likely to suffer from food allergies. 


All health-related content on this website is for informational purposes only and does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the advice of your own pediatrician in connection with any questions regarding your baby’s health.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.  If your infant has severe eczema, check with your infant’s healthcare provider before feeding foods containing ground peanuts.

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