Parents, pediatricians lament medicine shortages as respiratory illnesses add stress to Thanksgiving

HOPKINS, Minn. — There may not be a shortage of food this Thanksgiving, but there is a shortage of critical medicines to help kids fight the flu and infections.

The Food and Drug Administration’s latest guidance to pharmacies confirms a nationwide shortage of amoxicillin, the fast-acting and great-tasting antibiotic children actually enjoy to help treat bacterial infections. According to the FDA, multiple suppliers cite “demand increase for drug” as a key factor behind the backup.

“We might be asking you to teach your child how to swallow a pill to get them the antibiotic they need,” said Dr. Ashley Strobel, a pediatric and emergency specialist at Hennepin Healthcare. “We’re going to be choosing second-, third-, maybe fourth-line antibiotics if your child has a penicillin allergy.”

Strobel earlier this week appeared alongside several colleagues from health systems across the state to warn of how child respiratory illnesses are crowding clinics and hospitals.

“If your child is vaccinated, one day of fever is OK. A fever does not kill a child. A fever is the body’s way of overcoming an illness,” she said. “If your child has a fever over 100.4 for five days in a row, we want to see them in the emergency department.”

The FDA this week also issued guidance to pharmacies on how to potentially compound liquid amoxicillin from adult tablets, which is in adequate supply.

In Canada, meanwhile, a nationwide shortage of children’s pain relievers is sending Canadian families across the border to places like Buffalo, New York, and even International Falls. One pharmacist there told WCCO, “I’ve never seen anything like this.”  

A bottle of amoxicillin sits on a desk with a bottle of penicillin and a pre-pen


“It was really rough”

If Thanksgiving during the COVID-19 pandemic helped us be grateful for the health of seniors, this year’s holiday is putting a greater emphasis on children.

“Worse than COVID,” said Josh Zamansky, whose 2-year-old daughter battled RSV earlier this month. “It’s horrible. They can’t tell you exactly what’s wrong. You’re scared as a parent watching your kid be in pain and suffer.”

Medical experts say the widespread respiratory illnesses in children — such as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and influenza — are causing congestion in urgent cares, clinics and emergency departments. School districts are also reporting high rates of absenteeism.

“Our pediatrician’s office sent out a note pretty much saying that they have extended hours but unless it’s extremely serious, they can’t see the kids,” Zamansky said. “I wouldn’t say I’m frustrated. It’s the system and the timing and the world we live in. I feel grateful that we’re not trying to get in right now.”

Doctors note most RSV cases are mild and cause cold-like symptoms, including congestion and a cough. Medical experts offer these tips to ease burden on hospital emergency rooms:

* Stay home if you or your family are sick.

* Wash hands often.

* Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or shirt sleeve, not your hands.

* Clean frequently touched surfaces, such as doorknobs and mobile devices.

* Avoid close contact with sick people.

* Mask when appropriate.

* Stay up to date on flu shots and COVID-19 boosters.

* Consider urgent care, a primary health provider, or telehealth options for non-emergency care.

* Have a primary care provider for your entire family and stay connected and up to date with preventative care so that the primary care team can partner with you on all health care issues.

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