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DMV leaders warn about pediatric antiviral and antibiotic shortage

With many families across the area dealing with sick kids, the demand for relief is high. But now, these shortages are extending to area hospitals.

WASHINGTON — It's a common sight at many D.C. area pharmacies: empty shelves of many pediatric cough and flu relief products. Doctors say the return to normalcy post-pandemic is leading to a rebound of both viral and bacterial infections that dipped in recent years. 

With many families across the area dealing with sick kids, the demand for relief is high. But now, these shortages are extending to area hospitals.

But now, these shortages are extending to area hospitals.

"Primary care physicians are really overwhelmed with the amount of prescriptions that they're using to treat our children," said Children's National Hospital VP Chief Pharmacy officer Dr. Eric Balmir. “Parents shouldn’t worry. There are alternative medicines available and your child will still be treated appropriately for their ailment.”

According to pediatricians, many of the shortages are prescription-only antibiotics like oseltamivir or Tamiflu. 

"Although we are starting to see some shortages in fever reducer medicines, like acetaminophen, which is Tylenol and ibuprofen, which is Motrin, and Advil," Annapolis-based pediatrician Dr. Christina Johns said. 

Montgomery County Executive Mark Elrich addressed what he calls the “Tri-demic” of COVID-19, RSV, and the seasonal flu. 

"The hospitals are really concerned about capacity levels and we have three things out there that can put people in the hospitals," Elrich said. 

The cause, according to doctors WUSA9 talked to: Drug manufacturers base orders on forecasts from earlier in the year, which did not predict a spike in RSV. Children infected with viruses may later need antibiotics because of secondary infections.

As for those local pharmacies experiencing shortages of over the counter medicines, Dr. Johns says home remedies may work best for simple coughs:

"There is no good evidence that any over the counter medicine works well in children, so what we recommend in pediatrics is for children who are over 12 months old to simply do a teaspoon of honey every couple of hours," Johns said. "And that helps to coat the inside of the throat which can then help to give increase the overall humidity in the airway. That can really help settle down the cough. For children younger than 12 months that is not recommended. And so it's simply a matter of sitting and playing in the bathroom with the steam going full tilt in the shower with your young child to help to decrease the cough. But in general, we recommend avoiding those cough medicines."

Maryland launched their RSV tracking online dashboard Wednesday. The spike in cases appears to be coming down.

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