A new research by Northwestern Medicine reveals that low-income families of children that suffer food allergies are likely to spend more than twice on medical costs in the United States.
This dependence on emergency care means that children with food allergies from low-income families may not be able to afford foods that are free from their food allergen, so they might not obtain epinephrine or be able to see an allergist who would counsel them to prevent and manage their food allergies.
Lead investigator, Dr. Ruchi Gupta stated that this shows the existence of disparities in the health care of 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 Dr. Gupta.
Dr. Gupta is an associate professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and an attending physician at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.
Also, lower-income families also tend to incur fewer costs for specialty care and spend less on out-of-pocket medication costs and may be unfamiliar with programs that can help them receive epinephrine at low costs.
It’s worrying that those children are not getting access to specialty care to provide detailed education and confirmation of their allergies, as it could lead to more potential life-threatening allergic reactions that will lead to more emergency room visits.
On this research, data was analyzed from a national survey of 1,643 caregivers of food-allergic children and found that children from low socioeconomic backgrounds had lower odds of being diagnosed by a physician.
First author Lucy Bilaver, who also was a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Healthcare Studies at Feinberg, worked on the study and now is an assistant professor of nursing and health studies at Northern Illinois University stated that “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.”
It was shown that lowest income families were paying $1,021 per year for emergency and hospitalization costs, being compared to $416 per year for the highest income group. Also, families with lower socioeconomic status often lack the financial means and can’t access to allergen-free foods to prevent allergic reactions before they start.
Researchers suggest pediatricians work with families, for the creation of an action plan that details how to recognize allergic reactions, and when and how to give epinephrine.