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Got food allergies? Add milk to the worries for your meal

Carmen Heredia Rodriguez, Kaiser Health News on

Published in Health & Fitness

While peanuts pose a potentially life-threatening risk for some people, he said, other food allergies can also lead to a lifetime of physical and financial stress.

"We can't just think about peanuts. We have to think about the other major food allergens," he said. "This is a disease that carries a significant cost burden."

Among the findings from the report:

-- The rise in food allergies varied by locale. From 2007 to 2016, the number of services and procedures for those allergies increased by 70 percent in urban settings and more than doubled in rural areas.

-- For children, food allergy claims were more common among boys than girls, but among adults the opposite was true.

-- The effects of allergens also varied by gender. Women and girls were most commonly treated for food additive allergies, but peanuts were the top category for men and boys.

 

-- Food allergies are typically associated with children, but 34 percent of procedures and services involved a patient older than 18 years.

The report also looked at the costs of treating anaphylactic reactions in food allergies. The number of treatments for these life-threatening occurrences rose 377 percent from 2007 to 2016. But surprisingly, 7 in 10 services were handled in physicians' offices, while 13 percent were in outpatient facilities (which could include hospital emergency departments). Two percent were specifically labeled as emergency room treatment.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, more than 90 percent of food allergies are linked to eight foods: milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soybeans. Milk sensitivities can vary, ranging from a severe allergy like Matt Mitchell's to an intolerance that causes gastric distress but is not technically a medical allergy.

The Fair Health report found that a peanut allergy is less financially menacing than other foods. Services and treatments related to a peanut allergy averaged $236.73 per patient in 2016. That was a quarter of the cost for a milk product allergy, which averaged $1,043.89 per patient in the same year.

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