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Allergies to Staple Foods and the Financial Burden on Households

13 August 2016


Background: Allergies are defined as a rise in allergen-specific IgE plus symptoms. If only a rise in IgE is present then this indicates that the individual has become sensitized to the food, but this elevation does not mean there will be an allergic reaction when the food is consumed. This is often misunderstood when it comes to diagnosing food allergies, and these diagnoses can lead to unnecessary additional household changes and therefore costs. The purpose of this review is to evaluate the financial burden associated with the diagnosis of a food allergy to one or more staple foods (eg, hen’s eggs, cow’s milk, and/or wheat).

Methods: An exhaustive search of available medical literature was performed using MEDLINE-Ovid, CINAHL, and Web of science. The keywords used were costs and food allergies. All relevant articles were assessed using Grading of Recommendation, Assessment, Development, and Evaluation (GRADE).

Results: After reviewing the articles, a total of two articles were included in this systematic review. Both articles are observational studies using allergies to staple foods in adults, adolescents, and children. The Jansson et al study focusing on adults showed that there were increased total costs, indirect costs, and intangible costs, but direct costs did not have a significant difference between cases and controls. The Protudjet et al study concluded that although adolescents only had a significant cost difference when looking at total and intangible costs, households with children affected by allergies to staple foods experienced cost differences in all categories: total, direct, indirect, and intangible costs.

Conclusion: Households where there are allergies to one or more staple foods (eg, hen’s eggs, cow’s milk, and/or wheat) do experience a significant increase in household costs, approximately $5300 to over $11 000 per year. The associated financial burden with these food allergies should be discussed with patients and their families at the time of diagnosis. This gives the families an appropriate and well-rounded education regarding the diagnosis so they can better prepare for the future.

Keywords: costs, food allergies


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