Canada continues to face a shortage of painkillers for children. What options do parents have? – National

There are growing concerns about a continued national shortage of painkillers for children in Canada as the annual flu season and a potential wave of COVID-19 loom.

Since the summer, acetaminophen and ibuprofen products for infants and children have been in limited supply at retail outlets, pharmacies and hospitals across Canada.

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With the onset of fall and winter ahead when respiratory viruses typically spike, Canadian parents may need to explore other ways to manage their children’s pain and fever as the supply continues not to meet the high demand, according to experts.

“Not having a product to treat the fever itself will affect a large part of the wider child population, as we see this across the country. We see it in every city,” said Barry Power, editor of the Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPhA) and pharmacist in Ottawa.

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Health Canada says the shortage is due to unprecedented demand, as pediatricians noted an unusually early rise in viral illnesses during the spring and summer months of this year.

As the problem persists, more children are filling emergency departments and many families are asking for prescriptions for rescue medication, said Dr. Anna Banerji, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the University of Toronto. .

“It’s not an ideal situation,” she said because of the strain it puts on an already overstretched healthcare system.

“Stringing up a clinic or an emergency department to request fever medication makes for a very long wait in a system that is really at capacity, if not over capacity.”

What parents need to know

Acetaminophen, which is in products such as Tylenol or Tempra, and ibuprofen, which is in Advil or Motrin, are usually given as a “comfort measure” to children when they have fever, headaches, throat or pain, Power said.

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Additionally, ibuprofen is also an anti-inflammatory that helps reduce swelling, bruising, redness, and other symptoms following an injury.

Both are over-the-counter medications that don’t require a prescription and are sold as liquids, chewable tablets, and drops for children and infants.

These antipyretics are considered the mainstay of the treatment of viral diseases, as they relieve pain or fever.


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British Columbia continues to experience a shortage of painkillers for children


In most cases in children, medication isn’t necessary because the fever goes away within about 24 hours, Power said.

But there are also a number of ways to manage symptoms at home without medication.

Banerji advised giving the child a lukewarm bath and fanning him to try and bring down his body temperature.

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Other home remedies include giving ice water, ice cubes or treats to children old enough to manage their fever — and making sure they have enough fluids, Power said.

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Parents should also ensure that the environment is not too hot, for example by reducing the number of layers of clothing on their child.

Depending on the child’s age, size, and swallowing ability, another option to consider is providing smaller doses of the adult medication in solid form, such as tablets and capsules. These can be split or ground for consumption.

For this, parents can work with their children to start taking tablets and capsules instead of relying on liquid products, Power said.

But there is a risk of overdose, so he encouraged parents to speak to their pharmacist or healthcare provider before giving it to them.

“There are ways to dial in medication, but you have to make sure it’s the right dose,” Banerji said. “Otherwise you could overdose the child and it could be dangerous.”

Children’s pain medication is seen in a Toronto pharmacy on Wednesday August 17, 2022.


THE CANADIAN PRESS/Joe O’Connal


In a tip sheetthe APhC advised against the use of aspirin to treat a child’s fever because it “may increase the risk of a serious condition called Reye’s syndrome when used during various viral infections.”

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In severe illnesses, when the fever lasts more than 48-72 hours, the child has neck pain, skin rashes, or a change in level of consciousness, medical attention should be sought more diligently, a declared Power.

As the shortage persists, the Canadian Pediatric Society as well as the CPhA say parents should only buy what is needed so that there is enough supply for others who may need it.

As COVID-19 cases start to climb again in Canada, staying up to date with vaccinations for the coronavirus and other viral illnesses will help keep children from getting sick in the first place this fall and winter, experts say.

Health Canada said last week he is working directly with manufacturers to address the current shortage, but warned that intermittent supply will continue to be an issue at retail outlets for the time being.

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Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said on Friday he spoke personally with several manufacturers, including Johnson & Johnson, Haleon and PharmaScience, and was told production had doubled. or three.

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Manufacturers are working at ‘double or triple speed’ to replenish children’s painkillers: Health Canada

“They have assured me that supply will continue to increase over the next few weeks and months to replenish inventory that has been low for the past few months and weeks,” he told reporters on October 7.

Emergency ordinances and regulations are also available to facilitate the production and import of products that are generally not needed in the country, Duclos said.

“As the health of infants and children remains our top priority, all options to address this shortage are on the table.”


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Johnson & Johnson Inc, the maker of Tylenol, said it continued to face increased consumer demand for certain products and markets.

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“We are taking all possible steps to ensure product availability,” the drugmaker told Global News in an email on Wednesday.

Haleon, which produces Advil, also said it was working hard to ramp up production in response to unprecedented demand amid a “significant increase in viral illnesses”.

“We encourage consumers to buy only what they need so that all parents and caregivers can access the products they need to care for their loved ones,” a Haleon spokesperson said.

“If you cannot find the Advil product you are looking for, we encourage you to contact your healthcare professional for advice on alternative formats or other pain relief options that may be appropriate.”

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