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

The shortage of Tylenol is leaving store shelves empty.

With the shortage of Tylenol for children in the United States, some parents report finding empty shelves in pharmacies. (Photo: Getty Images)

The last few years have been particularly difficult for parents, who have faced, among other things, a global pandemic that has forced them to work from home while caring for their children, followed by shortages of infant formula and options for childcare. Now there’s another hurdle facing parents: nationwide shortages of children’s Tylenol and some antibiotics, just as cases of the flu, COVID-19 and RSV are surging.

It is important to note that acetaminophen (also known as Tylenol) has not been placed on the Food and Drug Administration’s official shortage list. Still, reports are coming in from across the country of parents struggling to find kids’ Tylenol and its generic forms — and plenty of photos of bare shelves prove it.

The FDA, however, reports a shortage of the antibiotic amoxicillin in its oral powder form, which is mixed with a suspension to create a liquid that children can swallow. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a statement on the shortage, noting that it “is expected to last several months.” The AAP recommends that physicians prescribe amoxicillin tablets, capsules, or chewable tablets for children who are able to use them, noting that tablets can be divided or crushed to mix with any liquid or semi-solid, such as applesauce, as needed. The AAP has also offered alternatives to amoxicillin for certain health conditions.

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

The shortage of Tylenol is likely because people want to stock up as cases of RSV, flu and COVID-19 rise, experts say. “All of these respiratory illnesses have resulted in an extreme influx of patients getting sick, faster than we’ve ever seen,” Dr. Paulette Grocki, director of pharmaceutical services at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, tells Yahoo Life. “People go to stores and stock up, and it’s a simple case of demand exceeding supply.” Antibiotic shortages appear to be linked to secondary bacterial infections that occur after children contract these viral illnesses, along with pandemic-related supply chain shortages, says Fisher.

But whatever the reason, parents have to reckon with these shortcomings. One is Maryland mom Jillian Amodio, who struggled to find Tylenol for kids when her 7- and 11-year-old sons came down with 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 kids not getting the medicine they needed, but there was nothing they could do.”

Amodio says she felt “helpless and like I was failing 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,” he says. “I even taught my oldest to swallow pills so she could take the adult version.” Amodio says he even recruited friends who also had sick children for help. “Every time any of us went into a store, we’d take what we could find and share it,” he says. “Together, we were able to collectively provide for our children by caring for each other.”

Executive life coach and Alabama mom Christina Garrett had a hard time finding medication when her husband and four of her five children caught the flu over the Thanksgiving holiday. “While most of them recovered to their normal pace, my 4-year-old Levi was down for nearly two weeks,” she tells Yahoo Life. “His fever would rise extremely high, then drop, only to rise again. When we went to more stores, I was shocked. Where was the Tylenol? The pain, cold and flu meds had been looted, almost as if everyone in the neighborhood needed it.”

Garrett ended up spotting ibuprofen and used it instead, but ultimately took Levi to the doctor, where he was diagnosed with an ear infection. “She went to prescribe the normal antibiotics, but they were out of stock,” he says. “Unfortunately, we had to settle for another guy who had diarrhea as a side effect.” While it wasn’t easy, Garrett says, his family “came to the other side and Levi is back healthy”.

New York-based family travel blogger Ashley Flores tells Yahoo Life that she struggled to find her medication of choice when her 9-year-old son recently suffered a migraine. “My eldest daughter suffers from frequent migraines and they have a significant impact on her daily life,” she explains. “I usually give her Tylenol whenever her episode gets stronger; otherwise we try using cold packs and make sure she takes breaks from bright lights.” Flores says her daughter was sent home from school with a “bad migraine” a few weeks ago. “When we got home, we tried our usual methods, but nothing worked,” she says, noting that her daughter’s migraine “has gotten significantly worse.”

“I realized we were out of Tylenol, so we ran straight to the drugstore,” she says. “Unfortunately, they sold out that day. She was tough as a mom watching my daughter struggle with pain.” Flores ended up trying the only other anti-inflammatory drug she could find, which was “a different brand of ibuprofen.” Flores says he was “hesitant at first, but it was our only option at the time.” Luckily, he tells her, she helped.

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

Romeike’s pediatrician “already knew about the shortage of amoxicillin in local pharmacies,” so he prescribed an alternative, cephalexin. Romeike says his son showed “marked improvement” within 48 hours, and she treated the boy’s flu symptoms with some of the kids’ Tylenol he was able to find. “My son and I lost my wife of 12 years to COVID in 2021, so I’m definitely excited to keep us safe and sound,” Romeike says.

If you can’t find a medication your child needs, Grocki recommends talking to your local pharmacist and pediatrician for help. “The pharmacies get new supplies every day,” he explains. You can also try non-pharmaceutical sources for Tylenol, such as grocery stores and your local dollar store, since people typically don’t go there for medications first, says Fisher. “Call around first to make sure you’re not walking around,” she advises.

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