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Child's Food Allergies Take Toll on Family Plans

Work schedules, finances and getaway destinations are affected, studies find

SUNDAY, March 15 (HealthDay News) -- Two new reports show that food allergies can be a burden on a family's finances and even its vacation plans.

The studies, expected to be presented in Washington, D.C., at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, demonstrate how these common conditions can have a wide impact on a family's quality of life.

In looking at the lives of thousands of caregivers to children, researchers at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and Arkansas Children's Hospital Research Institute in Little Rock found that caregivers with a food-allergic child were more likely to stop working, reduce work hours or incur financial problems.

This appeared most often at a critical juncture, often when the child was not receiving necessary medical care, such as prescriptions or help from a specialist. As a result, food-allergic children had twice the chance of not getting proper specialist care, the study found.

The study's authors suggested that the financial burden caused by food allergies might be diminished if children with food allergies and their families received needed support and care.

A second study found that most families that have members with food allergies limit their vacation destinations because of the condition, with 90 percent saying it causes them to vacation only in the United States.

In studying questionnaires filled out by 410 people with a food-allergic family member, researchers found that 68 percent of participants limited where they went and more than a third avoided certain types of transportation, such as ships and planes.

Concern about having adequate medical care at a vacation spot was the most common parameter on vacation location, the researchers found, suggesting that tourist spots may want to have better access to medical care and arrange for special accommodation for those with food allergies.

Nearly all participants said they would not vacation in a remote location. Japan, India, China, Africa and beach resorts in foreign countries topped the list of places those surveyed said they doubted they would visit.

When they did travel, about half said they would eat most meals in their room, and more than 80 percent would ask for special meals if their vacation spot could accommodate them. When preparing to go, most also packed extra emergency medicines and allergen-free food, and almost half researched the location of the closest hospital to their destination.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has more about food allergies.

-- Kevin McKeever

SOURCE: American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, news release, March 15, 2009

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