March 2023

Ibuprofen Shortage: Are There Alternatives For Kids?

Children’s acetaminophen and ibuprofen continue to be in short supply. Parents are likely asking about alternatives as the surge in COVID-19, RSV, and flu continues to increase demand for these drugs. Here’s what you should know.

When it comes to reducing fever, there’s no good evidence supporting the use of any natural medicines. But there are options for managing certain symptoms, such as cough, sore throat, and general discomfort. Honey is one to consider. Giving kids 2 years and older 0.5-2 teaspoons of honey at bedtime can reduce coughing and improve sleep. It seems to be as effective as cough suppressants like dextromethorphan. But make sure parents know they should never give honey to infants under 12 months old due to the potential for botulism poisoning.

Elderberry is also likely to come up. It’s found in popular kids supplement products for immune health and cough, like Zarbee’s. While there is evidence that elderberry might help treat flu symptoms in adults, there isn’t any good evidence supporting its use for flu in kids – this goes for common cold symptoms as well. Echinacea is another common ingredient in these products. There’s some early evidence that it might reduce the risk of developing a cold, but it doesn’t seem to offer any significant benefits once symptoms have developed.

Keep in mind that a lot of cold and flu supplement products promoted for kids also contain melatonin – particularly products marketed for nighttime relief. Daily doses of melatonin should be limited to 3 mg for children and infants over 6 months of age. It’s important that parents check product ingredients to avoid accidentally doubling up with another sleep aid. Lastly, remind parents that most supplements, even those specifically marketed for kids, haven’t been thoroughly tested for safety in children. Counsel parents to be cautious and to discuss products with their pediatrician before trying them.

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