There's a Shortage of Children's Motrin and Tylenol. Here's What to Do About It

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  • An uptick in flu and viral illness this fall has led to a shortage of pain relief medicine for kids.
  • You may need to get creative to ensure that you have the medications you need.
  • Look online and consider relying on generics.

Talk about a scary time for parents.

If it seems like there's been a new viral illness in your house every week since October, you're not alone. The 2022 fall season has been one of the worst on record when it comes to pediatric respiratory illnesses.

Not only is COVID-19 still circulating, but there's been an uptick in flu and RSV cases these past few months. Throw in your everyday, no-name cold viruses, and it's easy to see why pediatrician offices have been jam-packed with sick patients for weeks on end.

Of course, dealing with a child who's not well is a challenge all by itself. But now, parents are being forced to grapple with yet another challenge -- a lack of pain relief medication.

Recently, there's been a shortage of children's Tylenol and Motrin -- two common drugs used to provide pain relief and bring down fevers. And a big reason is that these medications have been flying off shelves as parents desperately attempt to keep their children comfortable while fighting off viruses.

Of course, if this scenario seems uncomfortably reminiscent of the baby formula shortage that plagued parents earlier this year, well, it's because parents of older children are now in a somewhat similar boat. Here are some options to look at if you're struggling to find pain relief medications for your children.

1. Look at generics

It may be hard to find Tylenol or Motrin right now. But you may have more luck if you're willing to buy the store brand or generic version of these medicines. Since the underlying formulas are the same, your child should get the same relief with a dose of generic ibuprofen as they would with a dose of Motrin. And you might even rack up a lower credit card tab by purchasing generic pain relievers.

2. Ask your pediatrician if you can give an older child a reduced adult dose

So far, there's no indication that regular Motrin and Tylenol supplies are being impacted. So if you have an older child who's capable of swallowing a pill, you may want to ask your doctor if it's possible for them to take a reduced dose. For example, you may be able to cut a pill in half, or have your child take just one pill if the regular adult dose calls for two pills.

3. Shop online

If your local pharmacy or supermarket is out of Motrin and Tylenol, try shopping around online. Giants like Amazon, Walmart, and Target have a vast supplier network, and they may be more likely to get these items back in stock sooner than your local neighborhood store.

The idea of not being able to provide relief for a child when they're sick is scary. Ideally, this children's Tylenol and Motrin shortage will be short-lived. But it may take a while for shelves to get restocked. So until then, you may need to shop elsewhere or look at different solutions for treating your child when they're under the weather.

At the same time, don't undersell the importance of frequent hand-washing. You never know when a random trip to the sink could spare your child a viral illness -- and spare you from having to run all over town looking for pain relief medication.

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