Children's Advil and Tylenol shortage: What you need to know, according to experts

A prescription for children's Tylenol and Advil is not needed. (Photo via Getty Images)
The Advil and Tylenol shortage is due to a spike in demand for children's fever and pain medication. (Photo via Getty Images) (Ekaterina Goncharova via Getty Images)

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The Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPhA) says manufacturers of children's liquid Tylenol and Advil are "working around the clock" to try and increase supply as pharmacies across the country deal with an ongoing shortage of the medications.

The CPhA’s Chief Pharmacist Officer, Dr. Danielle Paes, says the issue is caused by an increase in demand due to an "unseasonal spike" in respiratory illnesses — both COVID-related and from other viruses.

However, Paes advises that this shortage is not a reason for people to "panic buy" Tylenol and Advil.

"It's putting strain on an already challenging situation and so there's an opportunity for Canadians to help support the way that we're managing this by buying what they need and leaving some behind for the next individual," Paes explains.

father checking daughter's forehead for fever
Dr. Danielle Paes encourages people to not "panic buy" children's Tylenol and Advil. (Photo via Getty Images) (Rebecca Nelson via Getty Images)

A prescription is not needed for children’s Tylenol and Advil

According to Paes, another contributing factor to the scarcity of these items is the patient care letter recently sent out by SickKids hospital in Toronto. Some believed the letter warned parents that a prescription for acetaminophen and ibuprofen, common ingredients in Tylenol and Advil, would be required in the future, hence the reason for families stocking up.

SickKids clarified the meaning of the letter and told Yahoo Canada that a prescription was only a recommendation and not actually a requirement.

Paes confirmed that a prescription for children's liquid Tylenol and Advil is not required.

"You can walk into a pharmacy without a prescription and get access to this product...just work with the pharmacist to figure out what makes the most sense and what's available," Paes added.

medical tablet pill on hand of a baby
It's important to remember that there are alternative options to children's liquid Tylenol and Advil. (Photo via Getty Images) (PansLaos via Getty Images)

There are alternatives to Tylenol and Advil

As the situation evolves, keep in mind there are alternatives to children's Tylenol and Advil medications if needed.

One solution could be switching from a liquid to a tablet form.

"If your child is able to swallow, and if they aren't able to swallow a pill, crushing them and mixing them into something sweet like applesauce to help mask the taste," Paes suggests.

Another option is making products from scratch by having them compounded, in which case the dosages can be customized.

Jody Shkrobot, a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Alberta's Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, believes that rather than stockpiling products, pharmacists can be a fantastic resource to help with situations as they arise.

"There can certainly be some flexibility to try to find the best way to not necessarily ration medications, but possibly find other formulations or other products that can serve the needs for the patient," he says. "But if you don't need it, don't buy it, but if you need it, if you can't find it, ask your pharmacist to help you and they'd be more than happy to."

Pharmacists can assist you with finding an alternative medication during the ongoing Tylenol and Advil shortage. (Photo via Getty Images)
Pharmacists say parents should ensure their kids are up to date with their vaccines to prevent diseases that may cause fever and pain. (Photo via Getty Images) (Ridofranz via Getty Images)

Stay up to date with your shots

According to Paes, it’s hard to know for certain when stock of children's Advil and Tylenol will return to normal levels.

The CPhA recommends pharmacies place temporary limits on products to "help ensure availability" and to mitigate hoarding. The association is also asking for patience from the public.

Also, depending on the supply, pharmacists may need to repackage the product which takes additional time.

"Pharmacy teams are working hard to help patients navigate this situation and we're going to continue to do everything we can to ensure that you and your family have access to the acetaminophen and ibuprofen product," Paes says.

There are preventative measures that parents can take, including ensuring their children are up to date with their vaccines, to prevent diseases that may cause fever and pain and thus the use of Advil and Tylenol.

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