Why It Might Be Hard To Get A Common Antibiotic For Your Kids This Fall

Fall is supposed to be the time when we savor the colorful leaves and pumpkin spice everything. Instead, the autumn of 2022 is being marked by sneezes, coughs, absences from school, and trips to urgent care. Flu season is coming early this year, a byproduct of work re-openings, maskless gatherings, and general back-to-normal living. On top of that, RSV is also on an "unprecedented" rise this fall among children — and COVID-19 is also expected to surge as the weather gets colder and people stay indoors, per USA Today.

As if that weren't distressing enough, now comes word that parents may not be able to get their hands on a commonly prescribed medication. The FDA reports that oral amoxicillin, the liquid form of the common antibiotic, is "currently in shortage." Bloomberg News elaborates that an increase in demand, along with material and energy shortages and manufacturing limitations, have all combined to create a dwindling supply. The issue affects not only the U.S., but also Canada and Australia. While there are alternatives to amoxicillin for children, it's not an ideal situation. "Hypothetically, if amoxicillin doesn't come into stock for some time, then we're potentially having to use less effective antibiotics with more side effects," pediatrician Sean Gallagher told the outlet.

That may seem like a terrifying situation, especially if you're dealing with a child who's cranky, tired, coughing, and using up all your tissue supplies. But this antibiotic shortage may not be as dire as it seems. In fact, it may not apply to you at all — here's why.

In most cases, sick kids don't need antibiotics

If there's an upside to the liquid amoxicillin shortage, it's that it won't affect children who have the most common cold-weather ailments. RSV, the flu, and COVID-19 are all viral, meaning they're caused by certain viruses. Antibiotics such as amoxicillin are intended for bacterial infections, such as strep throat, ear infections, or bacterial pneumonia. Years ago, doctors would prescribe amoxicillin for viral infections, but that's no longer the norm, since this can cause a dangerous antibiotic resistance in the long run, per UC Davis Medical Center

If your child has been diagnosed with an ailment that does require amoxicillin, check around your local pharmacies to see if they have a supply of the drug. According to Bloomberg News, the availability may depend on your location and the store. While Walmart appears to be fully stocked, some CVS chains are low on stock of certain dosages. At least one hospital system in Minnesota is coping with the issue by dispensing only the required dosage, rather than giving parents the entire bottle of liquid amoxicillin (via University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy). If your pharmacy is out of liquid amoxicillin, ask if they have the medicine in a different form, such as a chewable tablet or mixable powder.

But for colds, flu, and even COVID, the best at-home treatment is still rest, fluids, and over-the-counter pain relievers as needed. Save the antibiotics for the patients who really need them.