Local pharmacies navigating shortage of children’s cold and flu medicine

Amid a strong cold and flu season, many parents are struggling to find medication specifically for their children.
Published: Dec. 28, 2022 at 5:40 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 28, 2022 at 6:36 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Amid a strong cold and flu season, many parents are struggling to find medication specifically for their children. In the Lowcountry, some local pharmacies say they have noticed the shortage but aren’t completely out of stock.

At Plantation Pharmacy, James Island Pharmacy Technician and Manager Ashley Tyrell says they have a lot of options when ordering.

“We actually order from our wholesalers, which we have six, every day we get a shipment. And we’re constantly shopping around different ones trying to see what’s in stock, what’s out of stock and where can we get it from,” Tyrrell explains.

Just down the road, Dottie’s Pharmacy is in a similar situation, with the benefit of many wholesalers, but the knowledge of a shortage. Pharmacist Mary Kunitzer says they have been working around a shortage for a few months.

“This has been a tough season for us. We’re seeing more shortages than normal. We have been able to keep a fairly decent stock recently, but we did just sell our last Tylenol suspension for infants,” Kunitzer says.

At MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital, more than 20 young children are currently being treated for a variety of respiratory diseases. Chief of Pediatric Care, Dr. Elizabeth Mack, says the continued high numbers of illness may be creating the shortage of kid’s medicine.

“We are still seeing a number of viruses RSV, COVID, influenza, para influenza adenovirus, rhinovirus enterovirus, so many human metapneumovirus,” Mack says.

Pharmacies remind people not to panic buy any shelf medication since it could make the issues worse and harder to manage. Mack says you should always talk to a pediatrician or pharmacist about medicine for children before giving them anything.

“Cough and cold medicines are actually not recommended for children, particularly young children under the age of four I know there are lots on the market and that kind of thing, but they can be risky for young children and so best to stay away from those. For kids that are in the four to six-year-old age group, I would certainly talk with the pediatrician. Older than that. You can certainly follow the directions on the bottle,” Mack says.

When it comes to pain relievers, Mack reminds people that they are not essential to get healthy again. She has heard from parents it is difficult to get and shares sympathy for any child who is sick.

“I wish I could say that acetaminophen or ibuprofen would heal us faster. That’s not necessarily the case. And so often it’s a comfort measure, which is certainly understandable, especially when it comes to children,” Mack says.

When there is a declared shortage of medicine, many local pharmacies are able to compound their own products to provide for patients. At Dottie’s Kunitzer explains how when a name brand product that is universally difficult to get runs out, they can begin making it.

“Now that we are out of that medication, we are looking into options to compound. We can only compound once a product is not available. So, if it’s commercially made, we can’t compound it until it’s no longer available in stock. So that is a good option that we will look into for being able to service our patients,” Kunitzer says.

Tyrell elaborates to say compounding pharmacies can also work specifically with dosages to make sure children’s medication is accessible.

“With us being able to still be able to get up in a powder form, and or capsules, we’re able to compound that down and make it into a children’s dose. And so thankfully, we were able to do that we have a recipe slash formula to be able to do that. And they at the lab are able to do that very quickly as well,” Tyrrell says.

MUSC also has a compounding pharmacy. Dr. Mack reminds people to always talk to a pediatrician or pharmacist before switching dosages or alternatives with your child. She recommends the following sites for detailed information about child medicine dosing.

For more information on Ibuprofen dosing for children, click here.

For more information on dosing of Acetaminophen, click here.