MINNEAPOLIS — Doctors are seeing a concerning shortage of the antibiotic amoxicillin, which is commonly used to treat ear infections, strep throat and pneumonia in kids.
The FDA says the amoxicillin shortage is happening due to increased demand, as some communities are seeing a huge spike in RSV, influenza and the common cold.
Doctors say it's not the viruses that are increasing demand, but the bacterial infections that can happen when a kid gets sick from one of these viruses.
“Bacterial infections — like an ear infection, strep throat, pneumonia — can pop up while a child is dealing with a virus like RSV or influenza,” Hennepin Healthcare pediatric infectious disease specialist Dr. Stacene Maroushek explained.
“Having a cold, an upper respiratory tract infection like RSV, or influenza, will cause a lot of congestion in your nose and that blocks the normal drainage pathway for the ears. So, that’s how ear infections can happen.”
Dr. Maroushek says amoxicillin is often their go-to antibiotic because it only kills a certain kind of bacteria.
She says amoxicillin is less likely to kill the good bacteria in a child's body compared to other antibiotics.
“Some other antibiotics also have more side effects as well. In some of them, diarrhea can be more prevalent compared to amoxicillin,” Dr. Maroushek explained.
If parents can't find amoxicillin, there are other antibiotics they can use.
"Right now, the choices we have for amoxicillin are really more broad spectrum such as augmentin or cefdinir,” Dr. Maroushek explained.
But before you give your child one of those alternatives, Dr. Maroushek recommends calling around to other pharmacies first.
"Right now most pharmacies are on what we call an allocation which is where companies and or government is only allocating a certain amount per week to pharmacies."
If you can't find amoxicillin, ask your doctor which alternative you should use.
Dr. Maroushek says while amoxicillin is preferred, these alternatives are much better than doing nothing.
“We actually had kids go to the pharmacy and leave without meds only to return a few days later because they’re worse,” Dr. Maroushek says.
The Minnesota Board of Pharmacy is also aware of the shortage.
Leaders say amoxicillin comes in different forms and doses, so parents have additional options they can pursue if their prescribed dosage isn’t available at their local pharmacy.
The Minnesota Pharmacists Association says amoxicillin is also available in pill form and parents can crush the pills into powder and then mix it with food or drinks for their kids.
Leaders say it’s important for parents to measure out the correct dosage for their kids.
“The pills may be a larger dose than what their doctor prescribed. So, there’s additional work and care that needs to be taken by the parents. That’s why we don’t necessarily recommend this method for parents when there are other options available,” Minnesota Pharmacists Association Executive Director Sarah Derr said.
According to the FDA, more than 100 drugs are currently experiencing shortages nationwide.
Amoxicillin was recently added to that list.
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