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Kid’s acetaminophen & ibuprofen shortage

What to do with a shortage of children’s ibuprofen and acetaminophen?

In the past few months there has been a shortage of pain and fever medications for children including acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin). This means that there is a short supply of these medications, and some stores have even begun limiting the amounts people can buy. Others have taken to resale platforms and tried selling their stash of the medications for outrageous prices, even as high as a hefty sum of three-hundred dollars! Unfortunately, we are still amid cold, flu, RSV, and COVID-19 virus infections circulating and there remains a high demand for these products.

Are there alternatives for these medications that parents can try?

With acetaminophen and ibuprofen on shortages, parents may be searching for alternatives. If your child has a pain or fever, typical medications to treat these ailments include ibuprofen and acetaminophen. If your child is under 2 years old, you should contact your doctor before giving your child any medication. Oftentimes, fevers in children do not need to be treated unless the child is uncomfortable. Treating a child’s fever will not cure them of any illness, but rather will help keep them comfortable. Therefore, if you cannot find any ibuprofen or acetaminophen for your child, they may just be more uncomfortable, but their illness would not be prolonged from withholding ibuprofen or acetaminophen. For fever reduction, there are some non-medication treatments that may be helpful, including keeping your child hydrated, keeping the room comfortably cool, and keeping them dressed in light layers. Unfortunately, there is not good evidence to support using any natural medications to treat a fever. For pain, try alternatives to medication like heat and ice packs, massage, and relaxation techniques.

Read more about cough and cold in your child here.

For cough, it is important not to give over-the-counter cough and cold medications to children under the age of 4. For ages 4 to 6, you should speak with your child’s healthcare provider before giving them any medication. If your child is over the age of 6, you can give them over-the-counter cough medications, but be sure to provide the proper dose per the package instructions. For children over the age of 2, you can try giving them 0.5-2 teaspoons of honey at bedtime to help reduce coughing and improve sleep. Do not give honey to any child under the age of 12 months.

Remember, ibuprofen should not be given to infants under 6 months of age. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is generally considered safe for most children, but these medications may require specific dosing for young children. If your child is under 2 years old, contact your doctor for dosing, but if your child is between 2 and 11 years old, you can follow the weight-based dosing chart for Tylenol. Aspirin should not be given to anybody under the age of 15 years old and naproxen (Aleve) should not be given to anybody under the age of 12. Be cautious with natural over-the-counter children’s cough, cold, and flu products. Most supplements for children have not been thoroughly tested for safety. You should discuss with your child’s pediatrician before starting any supplement. Elderberry is commonly found in children’s supplements but does not have good evidence to suggest any benefits in children. Products containing echinacea may be helpful to reduce the possibility of developing a cold, but once your child has cold symptoms, echinacea may not have any benefit. And lastly, keep in mind that many children’s products now contain melatonin, especially if they’re nighttime relief products. Only use melatonin if your child is over 6 months old and remember the maximum dose for children and infants is 3mg of melatonin.

If you are unsure what to do when your child is ill, it is always best to consult your child’s healthcare provider. Be cautious with over-the-counter products. Keep in mind that the treatment of fevers is primarily to make your child more comfortable but will not shorten the duration of their illness.

Disclaimer: This blog is written for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or seen online.

2) Natural Medicines Database

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Dr. Andrea M. Jones

Dr. Andrea M. Jones is a clinical pharmacist specializing in transitions of care to facilitate a smooth transition for patients between the hospital and outpatient settings. Dr. Jones graduated from the University of Colorado School of Pharmacy and completed post-graduate year 1 residency at the Southern Arizona VA Healthcare System in Tucson, Arizona. Dr. Jones also worked in retail/community pharmacies for over 5 years during undergraduate studies at the University of Kentucky and pharmacy school at the University of Colorado.




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