By Dr. Emily Eyerkuss, Board-Certified Pediatrician and Mom of 3
Amidst the chaos of the COVID-19 pandemic, recent formula shortages, a trifecta of respiratory viruses currently affecting kids of all ages, and now supply chain issues leading to medication shortages, most parents I know (myself included) could likely use a vacation, a nap, and that third cup of coffee.
This Fall and early Winter have seen exceedingly high levels of RSV and Flu activity, to compound recent spikes of COVID-19 and other respiratory and GI viruses, all of which are leading to LOTS of sick kiddos.
This unprecedented spike in illness is leading more parents to seek medicines to ease their children’s symptoms, and many fever-reducing medicines have become hard to find. Additionally, medicines like Amoxicillin (an oral antibiotic commonly used to treat bacterial infections in kids) & albuterol (an inhaled medicine used to treat wheezing) have been in short supply due to overwhelming demand.
If you find yourself with a sick kiddo and can’t find your usual anti-fever medicine at a local pharmacy or grocery store, here are some helpful tips:
• First, let’s review the two medicines we use to treat fever in Pediatrics: Tylenol & Motrin. Tylenol (also called Acetaminophen) is an anti-pain & anti-fever medicine that can be dosed up to every 4 hours for most children and is processed by the liver. Motrin (also called Ibuprofen) is an anti-pain, anti-fever, and anti-inflammatory medicine that can be dosed up to every 6 hours for most children OVER THE AGE OF 6 months. Parents can utilize both medicines during the same illness, but should always be cautioned to keep a paper log of which medicine was given, how much, and at which time to avoid inadvertent overdose.
• As I frequently tell my patients and families- COMFORT is key when kids are sick! Fever can certainly make kids uncomfortable- so bringing the temperature down with medicine, lukewarm baths, cool compresses, etc. will all help ease a child’s discomfort. Always remember, fever is NOT dangerous! There is no “magic number” that necessitates an emergency room visit except in specific situations (ex. an infant under 2 months or a child with immune compromise). Fluids and rest are other keys to comfort, and a child with fever will likely need more fluids (and more sleep) than usual. My personal motto is always, “treat the kid, not the fever number”.
• If shortages are making Tylenol & Motrin hard for you to find, one strategy is to consider generic versions or other brands (Genexa & Kindermed are two examples of brands that make liquid versions of Acetaminophen and GoodSense is an example of a brand that makes liquid Ibuprofen).
• Another method is to consider alternative formulations of these medicines, such as chewable tablets for kids over age 2, or rectal suppositories for babies or young kids who may also have trouble taking medicine by mouth. Be sure to check the dosing of any formulation before administering it to a child!
• Additionally, using a different child-friendly version of the medicine you typically use can be helpful if it’s all that is available. For example, if you can’t find Children’s Ibuprofen but there is Infant’s Ibuprofen available, that is an acceptable substitute- just be cautious about dosing since the concentrations of these two liquids are NOT the same.
• Another method to help find the medicine your child needs is to ask your friendly local pharmacist if they can assist in compounding a version for you!
A few things to AVOID in your quest to treat a sick child are below:
• DON’T use Aspirin. Aspirin is not safe for use in children and can lead to the development of a rare condition called Reye’s syndrome that causes brain swelling & liver damage.
• DON’T use a multi-symptom cold medicine instead (these contain other ingredients that are generally not recommended or safe in kids).
• DON’T use adult versions of medications by cutting or crushing pills or opening capsules, unless directly approved by a doctor. Unsafe use in these circumstances can lead to dangerous overdoses.
• AVOID homeopathic fever-reducers that may boast a “natural” means to relieving fever but are not backed by data or regulated for safe use in kids.
Overall it’s important to remember not to panic when your child gets sick, and always trust your instincts! If something doesn’t feel right or you’re struggling to provide symptom relief for your sick kiddo- don’t hesitate to reach out to your Pediatrician for guidance. Good handwashing, staying home when sick, and staying up-to-date with well-checks will help us all come out on the other side of this tough season of sickness. That, and maybe that third cup of coffee…
*The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not meant to be a substitute for medical care by a Physician.
Dr. Eyerkuss, a Board-Certified Pediatrician and local Mom of 3, is currently accepting new patients at IMA Pediatrics, located on Route 35 in Hazlet. For more information, call (732) 888-7646.