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The surprisingly high cost of childhood allergies
Kids who can't eat peanuts, eggs, milk, and other foods face a lot of hardships, but so does the rest of their family
 
A five-year-old being treated for peanut allergies takes a dosage of peanut protein at Duke South Clinic in Durham, N.C.
A five-year-old being treated for peanut allergies takes a dosage of peanut protein at Duke South Clinic in Durham, N.C. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Life isn't easy for children with severe food allergies: One smidgen of peanut butter could be deadly, or a bite of shrimp could close up their breathing passage. And according to a new study in JAMA Pediatrics, about 8 percent of U.S. kids have at least one food allergy. More than 30 percent of those children are allergic to more than one food, and 40 percent have had severe reactions. If you add in adults, 100 to 200 people die of severe food allergy reactions in the U.S. each year.

But the allergic kids aren't the only ones who bear the costs. Buying special foods is expensive, and taking your child to the allergist or the emergency room means time away from earning money. In the new study, 9.1 percent of the 1,643 parents surveyed said they had paid a price in their career, mostly by either giving up a job or restricting their career options. The study, by Northwestern University's Dr. Ruchi Gupta and colleagues, even put a price tag on the cost of American childhood food allergies: Almost $25 billion a year. Here are some key numbers from the study:

Sources: CBS News, Los Angeles Times, MedPage Today, NIH, USA Today

 
Peter Weber is a senior editor at TheWeek.com, and has handled the editorial night shift since 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian, and plays in an Austin rock band.

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