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Milwaukee pharmacist has advice if you can't find children's pain relievers due to national shortage

A sign in a Milwaukee-area pharmacy.
Chuck Quirmbach
A sign in a Milwaukee-area pharmacy.

If your family has been affected by the nationwide shortage in acetaminophen and ibuprofen designed for children, a local pharmacist says there are some non-drug alternatives for helping a sick child.

The shortage is due to the high demand for the medications to battle ongoing cases of COVID-19, an early flu season and the respiratory virus RSV.

Some drugstores and other locations are out of the products. Others are limiting how much can be purchased.

Pharmacist and Medical College of Wisconsin Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Karen MacKinnon says there other ways to ease symptoms.

"The number one thing is increase the amount of rest you get. This might be making sure the patient remains calm. You might realize they enjoy a certain type of music. Something that helps relax them and allow them to close their eyes for a few moments. Even watching their favorite shows, helping them get distracted," MacKinnon tells WUWM.

Pharmacist Karen MacKinnon is an Assistant Professor of Pharmacy at the Medical College of Wisconsin.
Photo provided by the Medical College of Wisconsin
Pharmacist Karen MacKinnon is an Assistant Professor of Pharmacy at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

MacKinnon also recommends increasing the room's humidity or providing a hot shower to loosen the mucus that you want out of the patient's system. She says to offer water to drink, but not caffeine. If the child has a sore throat, gargling with salt water will help. So will eating a teaspoon of honey—if the child is older than one-year-old.

MacKinnon says letting a child chew a slice of ginger root may also help.

"Ginger helps relax muscles. This helps the airways relax and allows that patient to breathe easier," MacKinnon says.

She says menthol rub, lozenges or liquid to add to vaporizers can also help breathing.

MacKinnon says parents and caregivers know the child best. And if the child's fever continues, or the patient is weak and having difficulty breathing, a trip to an urgent care clinic or hospital may be needed to obtain resources you can't find at the pharmacy right now.

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