Allergies are expensive – having anaphylaxis is even more expensive. The parent of a child with food allergies will find that the cost of caring for an allergic child is thousands of pounds more expensive than for a child without any allergies.
Studies have been done at different times to try to quantify the cost of being allergic – particularly to foods. One which was discussed a few years ago in The Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology in Practice and estimated that it was more than 3,000 Euros more expensive to have child with food allergies per year than a child without – and that rose to almost 5,000 Euros a year for a teenager.
Here we look at just five ways someone with allergies will end up spending more cash and more time than others. In these blogs you are hearing Julianne’s voice and experiences.
Allergy testing – comprehensive testing for allergies is often not available on the NHS. There can be a bit of a postcode lottery around this. When you find you have an allergy – especially if it appears in adulthood, you may go to your GP who may do some tests or may refer you on for more specialist in-depth investigation. This can take weeks or even months. Therefore many people who have allergies will opt for private testing so that they get an in-depth diagnosis and testing more quickly. This could mean visiting a private clinician, nutritionist, nutritional therapist or functional medical practitioner. This can cost many hundreds of pounds even if an initial consultation is free.
Shopping – this is a biggie when it comes to money. When you have to scan the ingredient list for everything you buy which is in any kind of packaging or which is not a ‘pure’ ingredient you pay in terms of time.
The time it takes to shop in one shop – and you may have to shop in several food shops because however convenient a supermarket may be, it may not cater for your more complex needs. You also pay in terms of money – the foods allergic people buy will almost always be more expensive because of the diligence which had to go into producing a ‘safe’ product and often the raw ingredients are more expensive as are the production methods to avoid any chance of cross contamination.
Eating out – many people with complex and multiple allergies will often avoid eating out. Why? It’s very difficult to trust any member of staff at any restaurant, café or other eaterie when you ask for a full list of ingredients. Although laws are tightening up on this – those of us with allergies know that many staff in these establishments sigh inwardly when someone like me starts asking questions. You can see it in their eyes that they think I’m a pain! What this means is that eating out somewhere I can trust can mean there are only a few go-to choices and often these will be more expensive and perhaps require more travelling. Of course, I could always stay in and cook at home – however everyone wants to eat out once in a while don’t they? And why shouldn’t I? Why should a pleasure many take for granted be denied to me?
Medicines – being allergic means more medical visits, more medical checks and therefore more time than most with a GP, pharmacist, specialists or health professionals. It also costs money. I have anaphylaxis and this means I have to have at least two ‘adrenaline auto-injectors’ the most well known brand for this is the Epi-pen.
If I eat – or come into indirect contact with some of the things I’m allergic to – I can go into anaphylaxis in seconds. I’ve been in intensive care several times for this condition so these injectors are vital to my survival. I have to keep one on me at all times – ideally two and I have to have one at work – also, back in the day, at school. I have to check their ‘use by’ dates to ensure they still have the ability to save my life.
Guess what? As an adult these are not available to me on the NHS. I cannot pay a prescription charge and get this product. If I was diabetic, I wouldn’t have to pay privately for the medicine which keeps me alive. However if I’m allergic as an adult, I do have to pay. These injectors are about £95 each – and there has been a shortage of Epi-pens and there have been reports that at one time the price went up by over 400 per cent to over $600 in the USA. A petition was started a couple of years ago to get these injectors included on NHS prescriptions – 10,000 signatures were needed to get it at least discussed in Parliament. The petition got 71 signatures. That’s how seriously we take allergies.
Skin care & perfumes – many people with severe food allergies like me, have allergies to other things as well. There are numerous skin care products, make-up brands and perfumes I cannot wear. This also includes the dangers of others wearing certain perfumes or after shaves around me. I once ended up in intensive care from inhaling a brand of after shave my father was wearing. I have to be escorted through airport duty free areas. This means not only do I have to stick to brands I know are safe for me – they are often more expensive than regular High Street brands. I also have to change a brand if they change ingredients within a product and it’s not obvious. So I don’t even have the security of sticking to a single safe brand. What’s safe one week, may not be safe the next.
- And finally, when a parent has a child with severe allergies, it can be so bad that they give up work or decide to work part-time – which will have an immediate and lasting impact on family finances. Also there’s no guarantee that a parent in the UK will then qualify for financial support as either a carer or some kind of disability payment to mitigate this loss.