Food Allergy Chronicles: The Cost of Allergies Part 1

Cost Allergies

Back in May I wrote about the EpiPen Problem 

The Cost of Allergies:

There are two ways to look at this question, the literal and the not literal. To look at it one way they will cost you freedom, relationships, confidence, trust, your want to socialize. All those things are fixable, you can get over them by learning to manage your allergies to the best of your ability. In the literal sense though allergies cost money. Lots and lots of money.

With the recent media outrage over Mylan and the cost of EpiPens the general public is getting a small sense of what those cost look like. I say small because it’s literally just a portion. Add to that cost doctor’s appointments, other medications, and the ever important food. And yes our food costs more . . . a lot more.

EpiPen prices are at an all time high of about $600 dollars for a 2 pack. Most families of small children need at minimum a pack at school and a home/for carry pack. As an adult I self carry everywhere so I only fill one 2 pack at a time. I would prefer to have a set for work and a set for home but it’s not a feasible option. Now assume you have a perfect year and you don’t have to use the medicine you won’t have to spend anymore money until the following year. (EpiPens have a yearly expiration date and need to be replaced accordingly). In my case I have not had a perfect year. I have had a remarkably not perfect year and I am on my third 2 pack. You can probably do the math on that.

On top of my auto-injector I carry Benadryl and 2 inhalers. These also cost money, not outrageous but an expense. Now if allergies are part of an autoimmune disease add in that cost. Perhaps a round of steroids for various issues. In order to keep those prescriptions current,  you have to go to the doctor. Is it a specialist? What’s your co-pay? Have you met your deductible?

Everyone has to eat. Everyone deserves to enjoy eating. Everyone should be allowed a variety every now and again. Allergy free food is expensive, like 2 or 3 times the price of a allergy full counterpart expensive. Usually for much less food as well. A loaf of bread is $2-$3…a loaf of gluten free bread $6-$8 and you get about 6 to 8 slices. Top 8 free cookies- $6 for 12, Chips Ahoy- $4 for 36. Now I understand that some people will say that we don’t need those things please remember neither do you or your children. Generally if people are looking to save money they buy store brand or generic. You know what’s in cheaper food….fillers. You know what’s in fillers…allergies. Cheap oatmeal has wheat. Cheap sauces and dressing have soy, and cheap anything is definitely produced in a facility that has some combination of allergies in it. Even Chick-Fil-A, who are getting ready to debut the first gluten free bun in a fast food restaurant, is going to charge an extra $1.50 for gluten free sandwiches.

This isn’t meant as a complaint in anyway but I think people need to realize it’s a lot bigger than just EpiPens. FARE had estimated some time ago that they thought the financial burden of allergies was about an extra $5,000 a year. Given the EpiPen cost alone it’s probably more likely close to double that or $10,000. The average American family makes about $50,000 a year, making the cost of allergies as much as 20% of their income.

Next week I’ll talk about some tips to save money . . . Stay tuned. Together if we make enough noise we can make the changes we need.

Food Allergy Chronicles: The Invisibility of Allergies

Invisibility of Allergies

If you have read anything I’ve written before you know I am a firm believer in taking personal responsibility for managing your allergies. I don’t expect anyone to do anything for me. I do however expect a certain level of respect.

Chronic allergies such as food allergies, allergies to insects, and allergies to medication are an illness. They are not something that goes away, but they are not always visible. A person can’t look at me and tell I have a laundry list of allergies and people lack an understanding of things they can’t see. Unless you witness first hand someone having a reaction, you may never understand the severity of the issue.

Most people I know who have allergies have had people question them about it at least once. “Just eat an almond and see what happens”  “ You don’t look like you had a reaction,” or  “Prove it” are all things people foolishly say. People also like to mock and make fun while they eat their cupcakes, doughnuts, sandwiches, etc. If you have never been in a position where you can’t breath – good for you – because I can tell you it’s terrible. Have you ever thrown up while you can’t breath? Also terrible. Hives? Terrible. Swollen face, eyes, hands? Terrible.

Auto-injectors are the life-saver of anyone with allergies. They deliver a life saving dose of epinephrine whenever you use them. However, to use them you need to slam an inch long, 22 gauge needle into your leg. You guessed it, it’s terrible.

My point is not to get people to feel sorry for me. Feel sorry for kids with cancer, I require no sympathy. I go out of my way to not bring attention to the fact that I am terrified every time I eat food I didn’t cook, every time I’m outside in the summer months, or every time I’m around people who are eating. I’m afraid I’ll miss out on something or disappoint people if I have a reaction. I’m afraid to eat at my brother’s wedding because I don’t want to risk ruining it. I hide these things because I don’t want attention for something that is just a fact of my life. I do, however, want people to understand no one chooses this. No one goes out of their way to live this way. I choose to live my life everyday without asking people to make changes for me. I spend time outside, and go to restaurants and I’m afraid every step of the way. Show respect, be happy you can’t see it because it when you can see it then you will really need to be worried. It isn’t pretty!