Mother checking daughter's temperature

How To Navigate Medication Shortages

February 23, 2023
As the winter season progresses, the number of cases of flu, COVID, RSV, and other respiratory illnesses continue to be substantial. As a result, you may have trouble finding common medications on your pharmacy shelves, especially for infants and children.

No one likes to feel sick—and if you catch the flu or other common winter illness, you may have symptoms such as fever, chills, and body aches. During flu and cold season, children are most likely to get sick, which leads many people—especially parents—to flock to pharmacies for pain relievers and fever reducers. Unfortunately, with the unusually high number of illnesses this winter season, it has led to an increase in demands in a number of common medications, causing shortages. You may have trouble finding the following medications on pharmacy shelves:

  • Amoxicillin
  • Cough syrups and/or decongestants
  • Children’s Tylenol and Advil
  • Certain types of steroids

In addition to shortages of medications that target symptoms of flu-like illnesses, medicines such as Adderall may be hard to find. Visit the FDA’s drug shortages page to stay up-to-date on medication shortages.

We know shortages can be stressful, but pain and fever-reducing medications (such as Tylenol and Advil) will not cure or even shorten your child’s illness. While it does not feel good, a fever is a sign that your body is working to fight off a virus or infection to get you healthy again. If you or your child have a low grade fever, consider taking the following steps to feel better without medication:

  • Stay hydrated with water, juice, or electrolyte-containing fluids
  • Give children popsicles as treats to keep them cool
  • Keep a comfortable room temperature and wear light clothing
  • Take lukewarm baths

Try the following steps to manage symptoms other than fever:

  • Allow children to get plenty of rest to help minimize fatigue
  • Use a humidifier and place salt-water drops in the nostrils to manage congestion
  • Use warm or cool compresses for headaches and body aches

During a shortage, if you try these steps and are still considering medication, you should purchase only the quantity needed—whether it is for you or your child. Limiting how much medicine you purchase at pharmacies and drugstores can avoid shortages and help ensure availability for others.

If you're having trouble finding a medication on the store shelf, talk to your local pharmacy staff, as they may be storing their limited supply behind the counter or may be able to identify availability another location. You may also refer to Beth Israel Lahey Health Pharmacy Services to learn about potential pick-up or delivery options for prescribed medications.

If you have more questions or concerns about managing your or your child’s illness, contact your primary care team.