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What If Stores Are Out of Children’s Medicine? FAQs About Kids & Flu, RSV, & COVID

father blows a child's nose before giving him children's medicine

Flu, RSV, and COVID are circulating in higher numbers this year. And to add insult to injury, there’s a shortage of over-the-counter children’s medicine in stores. What should you do if your kid gets sick? We called on UVA Children’s pediatrician Sarah Boggs, MD, to answer parents’ frequently asked questions.

My Child Has a Fever. What If I Can’t Find Children's Medicine?

Fever-reducing children's medicine helps your child feel better, but don’t stress if you can’t find any. Fevers are rarely dangerous. Kids and babies often tolerate fevers well, even up to 105° F.

Can I Give My Child Adult Medicine?

Almost all children’s medicine is weight-based. You shouldn’t give your child an adult medicine unless it’s the right dose based on their weight.

What If I Can’t Find Cough & Cold Children's Medicine?

We actually don’t recommend these for children under 6. They have a lot of side effects and little benefit.

Even if your child is older, use these with caution. Be sure you follow the directions and stop if it’s not working — more isn’t better.

Also, some include fever reducers like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen. Be sure you don’t accidentally double up on these.

What Else Can I Do to Help My Child Feel Better?

We recommend treating symptoms because few medical treatments work. These include:

Nasal suction can help young infants. But don’t do it too much or it’ll cause inflammation.

Read more about which remedies work and don’t.

How Do I Know If My Child Needs to See a Doctor?

You should take your child to the doctor if they’re:

Does Your Child Need a Flu Shot?

Ask your child’s doctor or make an appointment with a UVA Health pediatrician.

Your child is high-risk for severe illness from flu, COVID or RSV if they’re under 1 year old or have:

With any of these conditions, you may need to take them to the doctor sooner.

How Can I Keep My Kid Healthy?

The most helpful thing is prevention. Get COVID and flu vaccines.

My Child Had the Flu. Do They Still Need a Flu Shot?

Yes. They can get the flu more than once in a season. The vaccine protects against multiple strains. If they get “influenza A,” the shot can still protect them from “influenza B,” for example.

They can still get the flu after a vaccine. But they’re at lower risk for complications, going to the hospital, and death.

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