Shortage of children’s over-the-counter medicines grows nationwide amid rise in flu and other respiratory illnesses

Caring for sick children has recently become extra stressful for many US parents due to shortages of children’s Tylenol and other medications.

The video shown above is from a report on the rise in respiratory virus cases.

Doctors and other experts say the problem may continue into the winter cold-and-flu season but won’t last as long as other recent shortages of baby formula or prescription drugs.

They also say parents have options if they are faced with empty store shelves.

Here’s a closer look:

what is happening

An unusually quick start to the annual US flu season, and an increase in other respiratory illnesses, has boosted demand for fever relievers and other products that people can buy without a prescription.

“There are more sick children this time of year than we’ve seen in the last few years,” said Dr. Shannon Dillon, a pediatrician at Riley Children’s Health in Indianapolis.

Experts say this is the main reason behind the shortage, which varies across the country and even between communities.

“Right now, it’s like toilet paper at the beginning of the (COVID-19) pandemic,” Dillon said. “You have to be in the right place at the right time.”

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Johnson the drugmaker & Johnson said it is not experiencing a widespread shortage of children’s Tylenol, but the product may be “less readily available” in some stores. The company said it is running its production line round the clock.

Meanwhile, CVS Health has placed a two-product limit on all children’s pain relief products purchased through its pharmacy or online.

Walgreens is limiting online customers to six purchases of over-the-counter children’s fever relief products. That limit does not apply in stores.

In addition to over-the-counter products, the prescription antibiotic amoxicillin is also in short supply due to increased demand, according to the Food and Drug Administration. The drug is often used to treat nose and throat infections in children.

what do you do

Check first for alternatives in store if some products are not available Generic versions of brand-name products are “a perfectly safe and often much more affordable alternative,” Dillon said.

Other stores nearby may have better options. According to the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, manufacturers say there is no widespread national shortage of these drugs.

A family doctor may know which stores have a decent supply.

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A doctor may be able to tell parents if they can try alternatives such as grinding up the correct dose of a pill version and mixing it with food or chocolate syrup. Doctors say parents or caregivers should not try it on their own, as determining the right dosage for children can be difficult.

“You don’t need to do the test at home,” says Dr. Sarah Nosal, a South Bronx family physician. “Your family doctor wants to talk to you and see you.”


Doctors also warn that fever should not always be treated. They are the body’s natural defense against infection, and they make it harder for viruses to replicate.

Dillon noted, for example, that fever may not be intrinsically harmful to older children. However, parents should take a newborn younger than 2 months to the doctor if the child has a fever of 100.4 degrees or higher. And doctors say any child with a fever should be monitored for behavioral changes.

Instead of medication, consider giving the baby a lukewarm bath. Cold water causes the body to shiver, which can actually raise the temperature.

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Keep a fan in the child’s room or set up a cool mist humidifier to help their lungs.

Nosal also says two teaspoons of honey can help control coughs in children over one year of age. Avoid using honey on young children as it carries the risk of infant botulism.

When will the supply be good?

Shortages in some communities could last until early next year.

Solving them may depend on whether warehouses and stores have enough staff to deliver products and stock shelves, Erin Fox points out. He researches drug shortages and is senior pharmacy director at University of Utah Health, which operates five hospitals.

Fox said neither factory problems nor material shortages contributed to the current shortage. These disruptions can lead to long supply disruptions.

“I don’t expect it to last a year or more like our other shortages,” he said.


AP Health Writer Matthew Perrone in Washington contributed to this story. Murphy reports from Indianapolis.

Related: Houston pediatricians see unusual second spike in RSV cases as hospital nears capacity

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


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