Low-income households spend more to combat food allergies

Food allergies among children present a significant economic burden when they present in low-income households.

That's the conclusion of a new study in the journal Pediatrics. It examined 1,643 children who have been confirmed to be allergic to at least one food. 

Lower-income households that had children with allergies experienced more than twice the annual out-of-pocket costs for emergency room visits and hospitalizations--$1,021 versus $416 for those children in higher-income households, according to the study.

Emergency room visits are a highly common occurrence with food allergies. According to a 2011 study, they were linked to some 200,000 such visits annually, with about 90,000 of those connected to potentially deadly allergic reactions known as anaphylaxis. 

The study suggested that children in higher-income households had better access to medical specialists and the medications to control their conditions, based on the relative expenditures of each group. Specialty care spending on higher-income children averaged $311, versus $228 for children in the lower income groups. Highest income households spent $366 on specialty medications, versus $117 among the lower-income children.

Pilot programs that targeted low-income children with chronic health conditions have been shown to cut some costs. House calls to low-income families whose children have asthma saved $1.46 for every dollar invested by Children's Hospital Boston to try and cut ER visits and other costs.

Medical-legal partnerships to try and improve living conditions in low-income neighborhoods have also proven an effective cost-cutting tools for hospitals.

To learn more:
- read the study abstract