With food allergies climbing in the U.S., researchers have started to take a hard look at its costs -- and so far have tallied it at $500 million a year.
The price tag includes doctor visits, hospital care, and lost work days, according to the new study, reports Reuters.
The vast majority of food allergies are to milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy, or wheat. Food allergies among children have climbed 18 percent from 1997 to 2007, said Reuters, citing the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Today, about four of every 100 Americans suffer from a good allergy.
Visits to the doctor's office make up the bulk of the medical costs (about $118 million), which surprised the scientists behind the study, who expected emergency visits to make up a bigger chunk of the costs (ER visits cost about $45 million).
"I think what's happening is a lot of these (doctor) visits are not for acute visits," but for helping patients manage or prevent food allergies, said David Holdford, a pharmicist who worked on the study.
A person's visit to the emergency room also cost more to treat a food allergy than for a similar condition. An ER visit for a food allergy cost $553, the study found, while a visit for asthma cost $345, according to previous studies.