- There are shortages of liquid medications for children, such as children’s Tylenol.
- Illnesses like RSV, influenza and COVID-19 prevent suppliers from meeting demand.
- Parents should never give aspirin to children under 18 to treat symptoms.
Most parents of school-aged children know that the fall and winter months bring with them a host of respiratory illnesses that affect the whole family.
There won’t be a time when everyone will be doing well in the household, thanks to the petri dishes that are daycare centers and schools. But right now, it seems like all of the childhood respiratory illnesses are hitting at once, causing major problems, like keeping our hospitals full of sick children and worried parents.
On top of that, in some parts of the United States there are significant shortages of medications used to treat cold and flu symptoms. Kids’ liquid Tylenol is flying off the shelves fast, and parents are understandably frantic. Although the FDA has not yet reported a shortage, the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists has listed some oral ibuprofen as a shortage. Parents on social media said they couldn’t find any in their local pharmacies.
Here’s what parents can do about the shortage.
Why is there a shortage of Tylenol for children?
There’s a triple threat wave underway with influenza, respiratory syncytial virus and COVID-19, said Dr. Daniel Ganjian, a pediatrician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif. Of course, many other cold viruses are also present, and therefore many children need painkillers and fever relievers, he said.
Why does this look like the perfect virus storm all of a sudden? This year is worse because we are in the post-pandemic era, Ganjian said.
“During the pandemic, people weren’t getting sick with common viruses thanks to good hygiene, masks and social distancing,” he said. “As a result, everyone’s antibody levels against cold viruses have gone down. Now that people are getting back to normal, those viruses are spreading.”
Because all of these illnesses strike at the same time, it’s difficult for suppliers of these drugs to keep up with demand, said Dr. Gina Posner, a board-certified pediatrician at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, in California.
“The most prevalent diseases we face are RSV, influenza, COVID, rhinovirus, parainfluenza, and adenovirus,” Posner said.
What can parents do about the shortage of Tylenol for children?
If you look in smaller stores and buy the generic brand of these drugs, Posner said, you’ll usually be able to find it.
“You also can’t be too picky about wanting it colorless, a certain flavor only, or a certain brand,” she said.
Ganjian added that most drugstore chains have their own children’s versions of Tylenol, which contain the same active ingredient, acetaminophen.
“You can use other pain and fever medications like Advil and Motrin, or generic ibuprofen, for children over 6 months old,” he said.
Another key point for parents to remember, Posner says, is that your child may not even need the drug in the first place.
“Having a fever is fine,” she said. “I only recommend treating it if your child is feeling unhappy.”
Other ways to bring down your child’s fever include keeping your child’s room cool, dressing them in light clothing, making sure they drink plenty of fluids like Pedialyte, and giving them a pacifier icy to suck on, Posner said.
But if you’re looking for children’s Tylenol and are just getting started, you might be looking for an alternative.
What drugs are not safe for children?
Either way, Posner said, never use aspirin to treat symptoms in children under 18. underlying condition and it can cause confusion, seizures and loss of consciousness.
Parents should not use NSAIDs like Advil or Motrin in children under 6 months of age, and they should avoid giving adult medications to children” unless you follow the dosage directions on the package or you have spoken to a medical professional”. Ganjian said.
How to prevent these respiratory diseases
Maybe it’s time to pull out that mask you’ve been happily putting away this year and start practicing the same preventative measures we took at the start of the pandemic. “Masking works,” Posner said emphatically, adding that everyone should wash their hands frequently and be aware of where they go on family outings.
“If you take your child to a gym or playroom, chances are they’ll catch something,” she said. “That would be the time when I would limit things like that.”
Posner also suggested this simple advice: Avoid hanging out with sick people.
“It’s amazing how many parents say they reunited with a family member who was sick and they’re shocked that their child is now sick,” she said.
Getting immunized against viruses for which there are vaccines is also an important step in keeping your children safe and healthy during this rise in respiratory illnesses, according to a transcript of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention held this month.
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