As consumers fight the flu outbreak among children, supplies of cold and flu medication run short. The scientific community calls the phenomenon a “tripledemic.”
According to medication producers, the demand for drugs like Tylenol, Motrin, and Advil increased. During the holidays, something happened. Due to the high volume of travel over the holidays, scientists expected this would occur. Due to the large number of people congregating in public areas and homes, experts predicted that three different flu strains would undoubtedly spread.
“Consumer demand for pediatric pain relievers in the U.S. is high, but there are no supply chain issues, and we do not have an overall shortage in the U.S.,” said Melissa Witt, Johnson & Johnson spokesperson.
“(The company experiences) high consumer demand and are doing everything we can to ensure people have access to the products they need,” she added.
“We’re facing an onslaught of three viruses — COVID, RSV and influenza. All simultaneously. We’re calling this a tripledemic,” said Vanderbilt University infectious disease specialist Dr. William Schaffner before the holidays.
“Intensive care units are at or above capacity in every children’s hospital in the United States. So it’s very, very scary for parents,” reported Amy Knight, the Children’s Hospital Association president.
“Influenza has hit the southeastern United States. Then, it moved into the Southwest. Then, it’s going up the East Coast and into the Midwest with some ferocity,” Schaffner added.
The flu affected children
According to the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, pediatric analgesics had a significant increase in sales in October. Acetaminophen and ibuprofen are examples of such medications. In addition, the group noted that Westchester County in New York State had the highest demand for flu medications. Unfortunately, there are still certain regions where it is challenging to get flu medications, despite the makers’ claims that there is an adequate supply across the country.
“The supply chain is strong,” said Anita Brikman, CHPA spokesperson.
“These medicines are not curative. They don’t alter the duration of the illness or anything like that. They are essentially purely for comfort. Fevers from common respiratory viruses in and of themselves are not harmful,” said Dr. Sean O’Leary, a pediatrics professor from the University of Colorado School of Medicine.
“If [a child’s] temp is 103, but he’s running around the room having a good time playing, you don’t need to do anything with that. That’s not going to hurt him. Fever represents our body’s immune response to an infection. But, on the other hand, if he doesn’t have a fever, but his throat is hurting, something is bothering him, he’s pretty fussy — that’s where things like ibuprofen or Tylenol, acetaminophen can be helpful,” Dr. O’Leary explained.
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Picking the appropriate medication
O’Leary continued by stressing the need for prudence on the part of parents when selecting the appropriate medication for a sick kid and the possibility that adult medications might not be the most effective course of action for young patients with the flu. To ensure proper care, O’Leary stressed that parents must visit a doctor.
“For acetaminophen and ibuprofen, there are potential toxicities from taking too much — some of which can be quite severe, particularly for acetaminophen. So you have to be careful when you do that,” he said.
“It’s best to talk to the doctor or pharmacist. (If a parent or caregiver) can weigh [the child] at home, tell us what they weigh on their scale at home, we can figure out what an appropriate dose would be for them to take,” added Wendy Mobley-Bukstein, pharmacy practice professor from Drake University.