Health & Science

As children’s medicines fly off Houston shelves, doctor gives tips for treating sick kids

Multiple Houston area stores are having a hard time keeping children’s fever-reducing products like Tylenol and Children’s Motrin in stock.

Child sick with temperature

After the recent surges of pediatric respiratory illnesses like RSV and influenza, multiple Houston-area stores are having a hard time keeping children's fever-reducing products like Tylenol and Children's Motrin in stock.

Local health experts say there are some strategies that can help concerned parents find relief for their sick kids. Dr. Stanley Spinner is the Chief Medical Officer at Texas Children's Pediatrics and says generally there is always an alternative.

"A lot of parents know the brand name and will be looking for Children's Tylenol or Children's Motrin or Advil and it may not be in stock but there may be the generic acetaminophen or generic ibuprofen,” Dr. Spinner said. “Sometimes physicians just need to tell parents to look for generics because they are pretty much the same."

But Dr. Spinner does not recommend mixing different over the counter cold and cough medicines which he says can be harmful, especially children under two years old.

"If you start using combinations you can end up taking more than one product containing the same drug. For example, taking both a pain reliever containing acetaminophen and cough and cold medicine containing acetaminophen can be dangerous and even lead to an accidental overdose."

There are also ways to help bring down a fever without medication. Dr. Spinner says one of the most effective ways to do that is putting your child in tepid water.

"Simply putting your child in the tub with lukewarm water will bring their body temperature and you can stay in there as many minutes and do that as long you wish. There is no harm in that. But only lukewarm water, not cold water."

Other alternatives are using light clothing at night. Often times fevers cause chills which causes a child to want to cover up which can do more harm than good because it increases the child's body temperature.

Another strategy offered by Dr. Spinner is for parents to treat a fever only when the fever starts to make your child feel bad.

"It's another really important factor when it comes to addressing fever in children. Fever is the body's way of fighting infection, it's an ally. You treat fever only for comfort in children. Treat the fever only if it is causing your child to feel bad,” he said. “If your child is sitting at 101.5 is running around the room playing do you need to treat the fever? Absolutely not because it’s not hurting them…fever will not hurt your child. There a lot of falsehoods about, ‘Oh it's going to cause brain damage’ … The cause of the infection might, but not the fever.”

Lastly, if you are not sure, Dr. Spinner says reaching out to your child's pediatrician with a quick call or in most instances a message through a patient portal can relieve some stress.

"We are happy to give you that type of advice so parents are more comfortable in knowing, when it's an issue, when you should seek medical attention and when it's ok to manage at home symptomatically. And that's the thing about fever, don't be scared of fever. We treat it for comfort."