Respiratory illnesses, such as the flu, RSV, and COVID-19, are currently surging in the United States as the country heads into winter. This spike in viral infections is largely impacting infants and children, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
On Twitter, former TV host Meghan McCain recently claimed “there is a shortage of children’s Tylenol in the country.” Online searches show many people are wondering if this is true.
Is there a shortage of children’s Tylenol in the United States?
There isn’t a widespread shortage of children’s Tylenol in the United States. But Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health, the company that manufactures Tylenol, told VERIFY the over-the-counter medicine “may be less readily available at some stores” because of high consumer demand during “an extremely challenging cold and flu season.”
WHAT WE FOUND
The United States is not experiencing widespread shortages of children’s Tylenol, according to Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health, the Consumer Health Products Association (CHPA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
In a statement, Tylenol manufacturer Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health told VERIFY it is currently experiencing “high consumer demand driven by an extremely challenging cold and flu season.”
“While products may be less readily available at some stores, we are not experiencing widespread shortages of children’s Tylenol,” a Johnson & Johnson spokesperson said. “We recognize this may be challenging for parents and caregivers, and are doing everything we can to make sure people have access to the products they need.”
The spokesperson explained that Johnson & Johnson is “not facing any supply chain challenges or ingredient issues.” They added the company is running its production facilities “24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and continuously shipping out product.”
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The Consumer Health Products Association (CHPA) is a trade association that represents manufacturers and marketers of over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, such as Johnson & Johnson. In November, CHPA published a letter on its website saying the manufacturers it represents are “not currently experiencing widespread shortages” of children’s pain reliever products in the U.S.
“The reason for the scarcity of OTC children’s pain relievers at certain retail locations is a direct result of the recent and rapid increase in demand driven by a rise in pediatric cases of respiratory illnesses including the flu, COVID, and RSV,” CHPA said.
On Dec. 16, White House COVID-19 response coordinator Ashish Jha, M.D., mentioned the shortage claims in an interview on the “Today” show.
“(The Food and Drug Administration) and the (Department of Health and Human Services) are tracking this very closely,” Jha said. “The good news here is that we have plenty of supply. Manufacturers, they're working 24/7. Supply is actually up. The challenge is demand.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lists drug shortages in a database on its website. Acetaminophen, which is the generic name for children’s Tylenol, is not included in the agency’s database as of Dec. 20.
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To help parents get the over-the-counter medicines their children need during this cold-and-flu season, CVS Health has placed a two-product limit on all children’s pain relief products bought through its pharmacies or online. Walgreens is also limiting customers online to six purchases of children’s over-the-counter fever-reducing products. This limit does not apply in stores.
If you’re having trouble finding your go-to children’s pain relievers, Baton Rouge General, a medical center in Louisiana, recommends trying these tips instead:
- Buy generic – If you aren’t already doing this, it’s a good time to start. The active ingredients are the same, and you save money.
- Try chewable tablets instead of liquid – These are typically recommended for ages 2 and up, but many parents are so used to the liquid version, that they stick with it for much longer. You can even crush them up and mix them into applesauce or pudding, just confirm with your pediatrician before use.
- Shop around – Try smaller local pharmacies instead of big-box retailers. Of course, this isn’t convenient for busy families, but right now you may have to try a few places until you find the medicine.
- Fever doesn’t always require meds – A fever is part of a response from the body’s immune system as it fights off infection. If your child is otherwise okay – acting normal, eating and drinking – he or she may not need meds.
“Every child and situation are different, so always consult with your child’s healthcare provider for advice,” Baton Rouge General says on its website.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.