Thirty-two million Americans live with potentially life-threatening food allergies, including one in thirteen children. May is Food Allergy Awareness Month, and IUPUI’s Jennifer Bute is available to comment on effective strategies for parents to communicate about their child’s food allergies.

“There’s no cure for food allergies, and with just one FDA-approved treatment for one specific allergen, food allergies are managed through communication,” Bute said. “In the absence of treatment, parents have to talk to servers at restaurants, carefully read labels, talk to the host of birthday parties and family events, among many other things, to ensure their child is safe. It requires daily communication to manage a food allergy effectively.”

Bute recently developed an online course designed to help parents consider and prepare for challenging conversations that occur when managing food allergies. She also co-authored an article on parents’ communication work in managing food allergies, which includes practical recommendations for parents to effectively communicate about their child’s food allergies.

Bute says it is important for parents to take a team approach using non-defensive communication when explaining about their child’s food allergies, to craft different messages for different people, and to use communication self-care since it requires so much communication work to manage a child’s food allergies.

Bute is an associate professor in the Department of Communication Studies at IUPUI and a former senior editor for Health Communication. Her research centers on communication about health in interpersonal relationships; most of her work has explored issues of reproductive health, such as how people manage private information about topics like infertility and miscarriage. Her research also examines public discourses about reproductive and sexual health. More recently, she has examined interpersonal communication in the management of life-threatening food allergies and served on the Outcomes Research Advisory Board for Food Allergy Research & Education.