If you walk down the cold and flu medicine aisle these days, you might notice shelves that are empty or nearly empty. Some medications that can be particularly difficult to find are children’s fever reducers, such as Tylenol, Motrin, or Children’s Advil.
Drugmakers are reporting a surge in demand. This is not surprising, given the outbreak of three respiratory viruses at the moment: COVID, RSV and influenza, which has been called a “tripledemic”.
Johnson & Johnson manufactures children’s Tylenol and children’s Motrin. He says there’s no nationwide shortage – just plenty of demand.
“Consumer demand for pediatric pain relievers in the United States is high, but there are no supply chain issues and we don’t have an overall shortage in the United States,” the door-to-door manager said. company spokesman, Melissa Witt, in an email to NPR. The company says it is “facing strong consumer demand and doing everything in its power to ensure people have access to the products they need.”
Nationally, sales of pediatric internal pain relievers — which include drugs like acetaminophen and ibuprofen — rose more than 26% in October from a year earlier. That’s according to data from the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA), a trade group that represents over-the-counter drug makers.
While there may not be a nationwide shortage, there is one part of the United States where these drugs are hardest to find: areas near the Canadian border. The Buffalo-Rochester area in western New York is seeing the highest demand in the United States, according to the CHPA.
Sales of these products in the Buffalo-Rochester market jumped 53% in October from a year earlier. This is most likely the result of an ongoing shortage of pain and fever medication for children in Canada, with Buffalo’s proximity to Toronto making it an ideal location for Canadians to purchase such products in the United States.
A Thursday spot check in Washington, DC, of four stores – a Giant Supermarket, a CVS, a Target and a Bed Bath & Beyond – revealed low stocks of children’s fever reducers, although each had at least a few of these drugs. available. Inventories of adult cold and flu products were also low.
“The supply chain is strong,” said CHPA spokeswoman Anita Brikman. But parents and caregivers may need to check more than one store, buy a store brand instead of a known brand, or order products online, she suggests.
Parents have a range of options for treating fevers
So what if you have a feverish child and are having trouble finding children’s Tylenol or a similar product?
Chances are you won’t even need to use medication, says Dr. Sean O’Leary, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital of Colorado, as well as chairman of the infectious disease committee. for the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
“These drugs are not curative. They don’t alter the duration of the disease or anything like that. They are basically purely for comfort,” he told NPR. “Fevers from common respiratory viruses by themselves are not harmful.”
It offers a scenario. “Whether [a child’s] temp is 103, but he’s running around the room having fun, you have nothing to do with it. It won’t hurt him. Fever represents our body’s immune response to an infection. On the other hand, if he doesn’t have a fever, but he has a sore throat, something is bothering him, he’s pretty fussy – so that’s where things like ibuprofen or Tylenol, acetaminophen may be helpful.”
AAP has advice on treating a child’s fever, as well as advice on treating fever without medication.
Often when children have a fever they feel pretty crummy, and so that’s the time to use such drugs – “It’s to treat how the child is feeling,” says O’Leary .
Fever is a more serious concern in infants and children who experience febrile seizures.
“Fever in very young infants, in newborns, is actually a different situation, and it’s something that needs to be assessed,” O’Leary says. “Basically, the younger the child, the more worried you should be about a fever. For example, a 2-week-old child who has a fever needs immediate medical attention. A 6-month-old child with a fever who is otherwise doing well does not need immediate medical attention. [Parents] can simply call their child’s pediatrician to have this checked out.”
Be very careful with the adaptation of drugs for adults
Parents at home may be looking at their adult bottle of acetaminophen or ibuprofen and wondering if they could give a smaller amount to their sick child. But there are reasons to be very careful with this – and to consult a doctor or pharmacist first about the correct dosage for your particular child.
“For acetaminophen and ibuprofen, there are potential toxicities from taking too much — some of which can be quite severe, especially for acetaminophen, so you have to be really careful when doing this,” O’ says. Leary.
Wendy Mobley-Bukstein, professor of pharmacy practice at Drake University and president of the American Pharmacists Association Academy of Pharmacy Practice and Management, agrees.
“It’s best to talk to your doctor or pharmacist,” she says. tells NPR. If a parent or caregiver “can weigh [the child] at home, tell us what they weigh on their home scale, we can figure out what the appropriate dose would be for them,” she says.
She explains that repeatedly giving too large a dose to a child could have liver implications with acetaminophen and kidney implications with ibuprofen.
And Mobley-Bukstein has another tip: Get kids vaccinated against COVID-19 and the flu.
“Even if you still get the flu or even if you still get the COVID, it’s definitely going to lessen the severity of the disease itself. And so making sure they get their shots is really important,” says- she.
PSA: Please don’t store the drugs
CPHA’s Brikman is concerned that the notion of scarcity will encourage parents to buy more than they need.
“If families start stocking up in worry, instead of buying what they need, we fear it will amplify the situation,” she says.
And if you were thinking of stocking up on fever medication just in case, Mobley-Bukstein has a handy warning: these products expire.
“So putting a whole bunch of it in your medicine cabinet at home might not serve you well if you don’t get sick or your kids don’t get sick,” she says. “It is important for us to remember that they have expiry dates, which it can be dangerous to give [children] expired drugs. And so only buy what you need when you need it, and use what you have at home before you go buy new, if it’s still relevant.”
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