KANSAS CITY, Kan. - If you feel that everyone around you is getting sick, you are not alone. To make matters worse, the parents who are pharmacy-hopping to find antibiotics for their child’s ear infection or medication for flu-like symptoms are striking out.
It’s due to a national shortage of amoxicillin that has caregivers scrambling to find a drug store with it in stock or even other remedies that are in tight supply. According to doctors, demand is exceptionally high because of the so-called "tripledemic" of COVID-19, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and the flu.
"It’s unbelievably frustrating for parents right now," said Dr. Shawn Sood a pediatric critical care specialist at The University of Kansas Health System. "We’re having the shortage because there’s a huge uptick in pediatric illnesses right now."
Sood said anytime you have a viral infection, you can be predisposed to a bacterial infection. With more bacterial illnesses in the community right now, some of the viral diseases are being mistaken for bacterial conditions, leading to increased prescribing of the antibiotic amoxicillin.
The drug covers many things, from ear infections and strep throat to pneumonia and sinusitis. Sood said there are safe alternative versions of this medication available that can be used to treat these conditions.
"Parents really shouldn’t be worried," he said. "There are alternatives to all these conditions that are safe alternatives … you can get the alternative version of amoxicillin, sprinkle it on applesauce and give it to your kid that way. It just depends on how old your child is, but parents shouldn’t fret."
If tempted about using that leftover amoxicillin from a previous illness, Sood said to speak to your pharmacist. If it has expired, Sood advised against using it.
Is relief in sight?
It’s not just amoxicillin in short demand. Other common medications are also being affected.
"We’re seeing a trickle-down effect, and it’s also hard to find Tylenol, you know, acetaminophen and Motrin at some of our local stores here in the community," Sood said. "So, pediatric patients are definitely sick right now, and there are shortages of both the antibiotics and just common medications as well."
The company that makes Tylenol said it is doing everything it can to meet the needs of consumers.
"Some products may be less readily available due to this increased demand, but we are not experiencing an overall shortage of Children’s Tylenol in the United States," the company said in a written statement. "We will continue to work with our retailers to provide Children’s Tylenol throughout the cold and flu season."
Regarding how long the shortages will last, Sood said doctors have spoken to two of the biggest pharmaceutical companies and expect it to linger for a few more months.
RSV: What you should know
By now, everyone knows about COVID-19, but another virus going around is called RSV. According to Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, the respiratory virus is hitting the region earlier than expected. Its cold-like symptoms can be dangerous for some infants and young children.
Earlier this month, the hospital said they reached capacity with sick kids, FOX 4 in Kansas City reported. The medical staff has been treating RSV and flu cases since October.
"We have activated our emergency plans," Chief Emergency Management Medical Officer Dr. Jennifer Watts told FOX 4. "We activated those a few weeks back. We continue to find overflow spaces. We continue to develop creative ways in order to take care of kids. We are making plans in order to address these issues, but it certainly is concerning watching those numbers rise."
According to Children’s Mercy, RSV typically occurs in winter, starting around November. In 2020, there was very little RSV in the Kansas City area and the U.S. It was likely related to people wearing masks, washing hands and distancing, which all decrease the spread of respiratory viruses, including the viruses that cause COVID-19 and RSV.
Doctors said the spread of RSV can be prevented by washing your hands for at least 20 seconds, keeping away from people who are sick and covering coughs and sneezes.
Most importantly, doctors said, stay at home if you are sick.
Read more of this story from FOX Weather.