A recent report released by JAMA Pediatrics has brought to light the additional expenses of raising a child with food allergies. According to the report, the biggest expense isn’t the medicine or special food that must be purchased, but the “opportunity costs,” of the parents. These costs are a result of parents foregoing job opportunities to take care of a child with allergies or missing work due to allergy-related doctor visits or hospitalization. In an unexpected turn of events, career choices may not be the ones expected for some, as parents feel the influence from their children’s food allergies.
Today, more than 4 out of every 100 children in the Unites States suffer from some kind of food allergy. And although the actual number of children with food allergies is still under debate by leading experts, what are not arguable are the statistics that show that food allergies are on the rise. With the increasing number of children who have one or more food allergies come the inevitable career costs to their parents. A past survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that having a child with a food allergy impacts the well-being of the whole family. And, for approximately 6 percent of these parents, the impact means being highly restricted in their career of choice, resulting in an average loss of $15,655 per year. Others lost as much as $29,657 a year due to resigning from a job to care for a child with a food allergy. For 2.5 percent of parents with allergic children, the impact on their care led to parents taking lower paying positions within their current company, while 2 percent, faced more profound consequences, being terminated from their jobs. When it came to these career choices, these parents were under the influence of their children’s food allergies.
But blaming employers will not make the situation better. The JAMA Pediatrics report cited measurable work-related costs, such as lost productivity, to companies who employed parents of children with food allergies in the amount of $770 million.
Flexible working conditions and jobs with little or no travel obligations are the best choices for parents of children who may succumb to an allergic reaction at any time. One of the challenges parents face is being able to get to their child quickly if necessary, so many of these parents are now looking for jobs close to schools or where they live. Many women and men choose to put their careers on hold and become stay-at-home parents so they can join their child for lunch, on field trips, or attend class events in an effort to watch what their child eats.
Children with food allergies are up to four times more likely to have other allergies and asthma than children without a food allergy. Hospitalizations of children with food allergies have also risen. But, at the same time, more schools are putting policies in place to keep children with food allergies safer, and better, more cost-effective treatments are being developed. Until these are consistent across the board, children’s food allergies will continue to influence the career choices of parents for some time to come.
By: Lisa Nance