Parents share what it’s like to struggle with Tylenol, antibiotic shortages in children

Tylenol deficiency leaves store shelves empty.

With a shortage of Tylenol for kids in the US, some parents report finding empty shelves at drug stores. (Photo: Getty Images)

The past few years have been particularly challenging for parents, who have faced a global pandemic that forced them to work from home while caring for their children, followed by a shortage of formula and childcare options. Now there’s another hurdle for parents to grapple with: nationwide shortages of kids’ Tylenol and certain antibiotics, just as cases of the flu, COVID-19, and RSV are on the rise.

It’s important to note that acetaminophen (also known as Tylenol) is not on the Food and Drug Administration’s official list of deficiencies. However, reports are pouring in from across the country of parents struggling to find kids’ Tylenol and its generic forms—and many have photos of bare shelves to prove it.

However, the FDA reports a deficiency of the antibiotic amoxicillin in its oral powder form, which is mixed with a suspension to make a liquid that children can swallow. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a statement about the shortage, noting that it is “expected to last several months.” The AAP recommends that doctors prescribe amoxicillin tablets, capsules, or tablets for children to use, noting that tablets can be split or crushed to mix with any liquid or semi-solid, such as applesauce, if needed. The AAP also offered alternatives to amoxicillin for certain health conditions.

“It’s so distressing and frustrating for everyone. The doctors who prescribe these drugs are just as frustrated as the families who don’t have access to them,” Dr. Danelle Fisher, a pediatrician and chair of pediatrics at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif., tells Yahoo Life.

The Tylenol shortage is likely due to people wanting to stock up as RSV, flu and COVID-19 cases rise, experts say. “All of these respiratory illnesses have led to an extreme influx of patients getting sick — faster than we’ve ever seen,” Dr. Paulette Grocki, director of pharmacy services at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, told Yahoo Life. “People go to stores and stock up, and it’s a simple case of demand outstripping supply.” The antibiotic shortage appears to be related to secondary bacterial infections that occur after children acquire these viral illnesses, coupled with pandemic-related supply chain shortages, Fisher says.

But whatever the reason, parents are left with these shortcomings. One is Maryland mom Jillian Amodio, who struggled to find Tylenol for kids when her 7- and 11-year-old kids had the flu. “The shelves were bare,” she tells Yahoo Life. “I went to several pharmacies and no one had it. The pharmacists apologized and felt terrible for the children who were not getting the medicines they needed, but there was nothing they could do.”

Amodio says she felt “helpless and like I was abandoning my kids” when she couldn’t find Tylenol. “I went through everything in my house and luckily found the emergency bottle I keep in my travel bag, which was still half full,” she says. “I also taught my eldest to take pills to be able to take the adult version.” Amodio says she even enlisted friends who also had sick children for help. “Every time any of us went to a store, we grabbed what we could find and shared it,” she says. “Together, we could collectively take care of our children by taking care of each other.”

Executive life coach and Alabama mom Christina Garrett struggled to find medicine when her husband and four of her five children came down with the flu over the Thanksgiving holiday. “While most of them recovered normally, my 4-year-old son, Levi, was down for almost two weeks,” she tells Yahoo Life. “His fever peaked extremely high and then dropped, only to skyrocket again. When we went to multiple stores, I was shocked. Where was the Tylenol? The pain, cold, and flu meds had been searched, almost as if everyone around had they need.”

Garrett eventually found ibuprofen and used that instead, but eventually took Levi to the doctor, where he was diagnosed with an ear infection. “She was going to prescribe the normal antibiotics, but she were out of stock,” she says. “Unfortunately, we had to settle for another type that had diarrhea as a side effect.” Although it wasn’t easy, Garrett says, her family “made it across the street and Levi is healthy again.”

Family travel blogger Ashley Flores, who lives in New York, tells Yahoo Life that she struggled to find her medication of choice when her 9-year-old recently had a migraine. “My eldest daughter gets migraines regularly and they significantly affect her daily life,” she explains. “Usually I give her Tylenol when her episode gets stronger, otherwise we try to use cold compresses and make sure she takes breaks from bright lights.” Flores says her daughter was sent home from school a few weeks ago with a “very bad migraine.” “When we got home, we tried our usual methods, but nothing worked,” she says, noting that her daughter’s migraines “got significantly worse.”

“I realized we were out of Tylenol, so we rushed to the pharmacy right away,” she says. “Unfortunately, they were up that day. It was tough as a mom watching my daughter struggle with the pain.” Flores eventually tried the only other anti-inflammatory medication she could find, which was “an off-brand ibuprofen.” Flores says she “was hesitant at first, but was our only option at the time.” Fortunately, she says, it did help.

Utah dad Ryan Romeike says his 6-year-old son tested positive for both strep throat and the flu after Thanksgiving. “Because the pediatrician was concerned about drug interactions with antivirals and antibiotics, she chose to treat the strep bacteria in the first place, which can be quite dangerous if left untreated in children and the elderly,” he tells Yahoo Life . “The primary treatment choice is usually a penicillin-based antibiotic such as amoxicillin, but apparently it is in short supply.”

Romeike’s pediatrician “was already aware of the shortages of finding amoxicillin in local pharmacies,” so she prescribed an alternative, cefalexin. Romeike says his son showed “significant improvement” within 48 hours, and he treated the boy’s flu symptoms with any children’s Tylenol he could find. “My son and I lost my wife of 12 years to COVID in 2021, so I’m definitely on edge to keep us safe and sound,” says Romeike.

If you can’t find any medication your child needs, Grocki recommends talking to your local pharmacist and pediatrician for help. “Pharmacies get new supplies every day,” she explains. You can also try non-pharmacy sources for Tylenol, such as supermarkets and your local dollar store, since people usually don’t go there for the medication first, says Fisher. “Call around first to make sure you’re not driving around,” she advises.

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