Pediatric drug shortages leave Park City parents scrambling
A surge in winter illnesses has led to a nationwide shortage of essential children’s medications. Parents and pediatricians in Park City are feeling the pinch.
Health experts say Utah is seeing its worst flu season in more than a decade. Partner that with RSV, another COVID spike and a rash of other respiratory viruses, and the result is a shortage of antibiotics, antivirals and pediatric cold and flu medications.
Unlike the baby formula situation, where the shortage was based on supply chain issues, local pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Deramo said, in this case, the manufacturers just didn’t anticipate demand.
“So our kids weren't really using much liquid antipyretics, Tylenol, ibuprofen, that kind of medication, for the last couple of years and so people were not producing it at the same rates as they had been previously when this winter hit, our first post-COVID winter, where we're finally seeing RSV and flu and the cold viruses at the rates that we were previously seeing them,” Deramo said. “So now we have a need for something that is not really being produced.”
The shortage won’t be good news for caregivers struggling with seemingly endless viruses.
Typically, Deramo said parents with children in daycare can expect their little ones to get sick every six weeks during the winter. But post-COVID, when so many children haven't been regularly exposed, they’re being hit with these respiratory viruses back to back.
Amoxicillin, a go-to antibiotic for kids with strep throat and pneumonia, is running low. Tamiflu for children is difficult to find, as is children’s liquid Tylenol and ibuprofen.
Deramo said if people can’t find the over-the-counter medicines, local pharmacists may be able to help.
“They are a wealth of knowledge of what can be converted safely and what shouldn't be crushed up and given to children," she said. "They have gone to school for some decades to figure that out. And honestly, we call them when we have questions about that.”
A local pharmacist said they haven’t had liquid Amoxicillin in stock and have switched to chewable versions of another antibiotic called Augmentin. They’ve been suggesting parents crush it up and give it to their children in something sweet like juice or apple sauce, but even the chewable versions are becoming hard to find.
The same is true for adult prescription Tylenol and ibuprofen tablets. These capsules are also running low.
Those medications are designed to reduce fever but Deramo said not all fevers need to be feared.
“A fever in and of itself is not dangerous,” Deramo said. “And so, you know, using Tylenol and ibuprofen can certainly make children more comfortable, and we want that for them as parents, but it's not dangerous for them to have a fever. Their body is producing that as part of their immune response and it's part of their desire to fight off this virus that they've caught. And so you can comfort them in other ways with cool cloths and with cuddles and chicken soup and the usual.”
Deramo said, unless a child is severely ill or has a temperature over 104 degrees, they should be able to be cared for at home.