Cold and flu season came early this year, hitting children especially hard, and with standard medications in short supply the situation has left many parents and other caretakers wondering what to do.
“Obviously the shortage comes at the worst possible time, but it really is because there’s just so many individuals that have gotten sick,” said Susan Lonczak, director of health for the Plainville-Southington Health District, speaking with Record-Journal reporter Jessica Simms. “There’s just a really big demand.”
Even finding a bag of cough drops to buy can be a futile exercise.
The CDC says common colds are the main reason children miss school and adults miss work. Each year in the United States, there are millions of cases of the common cold. Adults have an average of two to three colds per year, and children have even more.
The situation is especially pronounced this year, say numerous health experts, who explain that during the pandemic infections of RSV, influenza, and other respiratory viruses declined as people were isolating or at least keeping their distance and masking. Younger children were not exposed to these illnesses and therefore their natural immunity wasn’t activated.
Now, with a return to school and socializing, a lot of youngsters are coming down with one or more of these ubiquitous illnesses. At approximately the same time, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reported that medications to treat children’s ear infections, sore throats, influenza, and common upper respiratory illnesses were becoming hard to find.
Parents found empty shelves and pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens put limits on certain children’s pain relief medications for online purchases, according to the Associated Press. Meanwhile, drug manufacturers are hustling to increase inventories, reports healthline.com.
Noting the rise of flu, COVID, and RSV in the state, the Chesprocott Health District recommends that “if your child is sick, please keep them home from school or daycare and contact a healthcare provider to determine the best way to treat your child.”
That seems reasonable, but can be a tough call for working parents who want to do the right thing but have multiple obligations as well as more questions. Are sniffles or a cough enough to call a sick day from school? Do the other kids at school also have colds and is there really a way to avoid passing germs around? Symptoms may come and go and the child who seemed well enough in the morning may hit a slump later in the day.
Simms writes that Kathryn Glendon, public health specialist with Chesprocott, suggested using social media to see if someone may have children’s medication to spare or know where to find some. Asking friends or family to buy it if they see it, is another strategy.
Glendon said. “Sometimes the stores you don’t think about will have it like Walmart or Aldi’s, Target.”
With manufactured cold and flu medications in short supply, the health experts Simms interviewed offered some tried and true remedies — sometimes labeled “homeopathic” — that may be effective or at least make the child feel cared for, no small thing. Honey and tea, a warm bath, a dehumidifier, rest and just “being there” for them. (The CDC says no honey for kids under one year of age.)
Of course, calling the pediatrician for more specific advice is a good option, too. But, as we’ve been told ad naseum, washing hands and avoiding sick people is the best course of action and may be all that we can do — there’s a lot of sickness going around this time of year, it’s hard to avoid.
While the situation is frustrating for parents wanting real medicine, we do like the advice to cuddle your child and put the kettle on.