Severe Food Allergy Reactions Surge Over Decade, Along with Health CostsSevere Food Allergy Reactions Surge Over Decade, Along with Health Costs

By November 24, 2017Interesting, Regulatory

The incidence of emergency treatment of anaphylaxis, the severe form of food-allergic reaction, climbed a remarkable 377 percent in the United States between 2007 and 2016, according to an extensive analysis of private health insurance claims.

Among the foods triggering severe reactions, peanut was the single allergen most frequently seen in anaphylaxis (26 percent of cases), while tree nuts and seeds came in second (18 percent of cases). The tree nuts and seed category saw the biggest increase in severe reactions – a growth of 603 percent over the decade, while peanut anaphylaxis rose by 445 percent in that period.

The analysis, conducted by the nonprofit FAIR Health, finds the largest single anapylaxis trigger was “other specific foods,” a catchall category that includes: Top 8 triggers soy and wheat (which are not allotted separate insurance codes), several less common food triggers and cases in which the food trigger was simply not known.

While food allergy is often viewed as a childhood condition, the FAIR Health report reveals that those over the age of 18 accounted for more than one-third of diagnosis insurance claims.

Commenting on the 377 percent surge in anaphylaxis, Dr. James Baker, CEO of the nonprofit Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), told Allergic Living: “We think this shows definitive evidence for a dramatic rise in the number of severe, systemic and life-threatening food-allergic reactions that children and adults across the country experience every day.” FARE gave funding to this study of recent food allergy trends and costs in the United States.

Robin Gelburd, FAIR Health’s president, said she hopes this data “provides useful information for researchers, policy makers and other healthcare stakeholders.” FAIR Health keeps a database of billions of private health claims, which it analyzes in support of transparency of healthcare costs and trends.

The financial burden to both families living with milk allergy and to the overall costs to the healthcare system becomes apparent in this analysis. A family who has a child with a milk allergy has the highest per patient cost of any food allergy, spending an average of $1,043 per year in health services and other costs. To compare, someone with a peanut allergy spends an average of $236 per year on allergy-related costs. Those managing a milk allergy often have to buy specialized formula for a child, which is costly.