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Low-Income Families Spend More On Children’s Allergies

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A recent study states that low-income families who have children with food allergies spend 2.5 times more on hospitalization and emergency care costs.

The study, conducted by Northwestern Medicine, notes that the heavy dependence on emergency care to address allergies comes from the fact that low-income families cannot afford food free from allergens, have no immediate access to epinephrine or are unable to consult nutrition and allergy experts on proper food management.

Data gathered showed that the lowest income families were paying $1,021 annually for emergency and hospitalization, compared to $416 per year for the highest income group.

Dr. Ruchi Gupta, lead researcher and associate professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, says, “This shows disparities exist in care for low-income children with food allergy.”

The first line management for food allergy is prevention, but costs for special foods and epinephrine auto injectors can be a barrier for many families. Some patients may not have access to allergen-free foods and cannot afford to fill their prescription.

said Gupta who is also an attending doctor at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.

“We are worried these children are not getting access to specialty care to provide detailed education and confirmation of their allergies,” Gupta continues. “This leads to more potential life-threatening allergic reactions that lead to more emergency room visits.”

Families from low socioeconomic backgrounds might not know about programs that can help them with inexpensive epinephrine. They also spend less on specialty care and on medications.

A national survey of 1,634 health workers for food-allergic children showed that those from lower income families were less likely to be diagnosed by a physician.

“The specialists are the ones who provide a lot of education and guidance for families with food allergy, and these families are missing out on that,” study author Lucy Bilaver says.

The researchers recommend that pediatricians work with families to recognize allergy symptoms early on. Better information dissemination on epinephrine, as well as more attention to how these families can obtain allergen-free foods, might also go a long way towards addressing this issue.

The study was published in the journal Pediatrics. More information on children’s allergies can be found at the ACAAI.

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