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Low Income Children More Likely to Have Food Allergy, Less Likely to Have Resources to Manage It

4/27/2016
The study, “Socioeconomic Disparities in the Economic Impact of Childhood Food Allergy,” appearing the May 2016 issue of Pediatrics (published online April 25) examined the degree of disparities in direct medical and out-of-pocket costs associated with food allergy across socioeconomic groups. Researchers analyzed data from a national survey of 1,643 caregivers of food-allergic children and found that children from low-economic backgrounds had higher overall prevalence of food allergy, but lower odds of being diagnosed by physician. These children incurred 2.5 times the hospitalization costs of higher income children. At the same time, they also incurred the lowest direct medical and out-of-pockets expenses for treating allergic reactions to food. The authors say this suggests that low-income children have less access to specialty care, allergen-free foods, and medications. They also may be at higher risk for accidental ingestion of allergy triggering foods and anaphylaxis. For example, the authors cite the cost of epinephrine auto-injectors as an economic burden to low-income families, so they are less likely to purchase them. In addition, families are often unaware of the ability to get epinephrine free, or at low cost, through the company. Researchers also point out that families with lower socioeconomic status often lack the financial means and access to allergen-free foods to prevent allergic reactions before they start. They suggest that pediatricians work with families to create an action plan detailing how to recognize allergic reactions, including when and how to give epinephrine. Additionally, more needs to be done to ensure families can access safe foods. The authors suggest that all grocery stores have designated aisles for affordable foods free of the most common allergens.

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The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 64,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit www.aap.org.



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