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I spent an entire day hunting for children’s painkillers. Here’s what I found, besides (barely any) drugs

Star reporter Kate Allen during her search for children’s medications, in short supply in Canada, and her own medicine bin. The medication she is reaching for is not children's medication and was on the wrong shelf.Star reporter Kate Allen during her search for children’s medications, in short supply in Canada, and her own medicine bin. The medication she is reaching for is not children's medication and was on the wrong shelf.

The Costco hotdog was a giant mistake. On my ninth pharmacy of the day, with chilly rain falling from a nasty gray sky, the futility of my job started to mingle with remorse over my lunch. Dread — or perhaps processed meat — started to rise inside me.

The day started with a lot promise: a espresso, a podcast, and a mission to accumulate as a lot kids’s fever and pain-relieving treatment as doable. I knew the medication could be laborious to search out, after all. As a reporter, I sustain with the information on the Canada-wide scarcity of pediatric painkillers. As a mother of two youngsters ages one and 4, I don’t have to learn the headlines — I simply should open my drugs cupboard.

You are reading: I spent an entire day hunting for children’s painkillers. Here’s what I found, besides (barely any) drugs

I assumed spending an entire day monitoring down youngsters’ drugs would really feel like a caper. I hoped it’d pep up a problem that folks and medical doctors worry hasn’t been taken as significantly accurately.

My largest concern was what we’d do with any medication I acquired past what my family might instantly use — I didn’t wish to hoard. Because the story was taking a gamification strategy already, my editor prompt that when I discovered what I wanted, I might begin simply snapping photos, Pokémon-style — chewables, toddler liquid, kids’s liquid, accumulate all of them!

I needn’t have fearful.

Perhaps it was the hotdog speaking, however after seven hours of driving and 13 pharmacies, my largest concern was leaving my meagre stash of kids’s painkillers in plain sight on the passenger’s seat. I began worrying somebody would smash my home windows and steal it — and I puzzled whether or not I might even blame anybody who did.

On Monday, Well being Canada introduced that it had “secured a international provide of kids’s acetaminophen (Tylenol)” that may be accessible at pharmacies, however didn’t say how a lot or when it will arrive, providing little solace to these with sick kids proper now — and there are numerous us.

Earlier than I left on my mission, I assessed our household’s provide. Till very lately, the bin the place we maintain the youngsters’ drugs had been overflowing.

Then autumn hit, and we acquired shellacked.

Early October: the child will get despatched dwelling from daycare with a fever. Subsequent week: the identical. That weekend, the kindergartener barfs; he can’t cease shivering. My husband can’t cease shivering. The child is feverish and coughing: he has RSV, respiratory syncytial virus. The kindergartener will get RSV. I get RSV. My husband will get RSV. We expect the child is healthier, however he will get despatched dwelling once more a complete mess, sizzling and respiration quickly. The youngsters are depressing, we’re depressing, our home is a catastrophe, and I can’t get any work completed. Our prolonged household avoids us just like the plague, as a result of we’re.

Reporter Kate Allen's local Shoppers yielded no luck, so she followed tips from acquaintances on social media during her long day of searching.

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Scientists say this season’s tsunami of viral sickness, which is presently and terrifyingly swamping kids’s hospitals, is a knock-on impact of the pandemic. Measures meant to gradual COVID transmission additionally suppressed widespread childhood diseases, lots of which hit hardest the primary time. With COVID measures falling, these different viruses are encountering a bonanza of kids with naive immune methods.

As a science reporter who coated COVID, I might additionally add that the pandemic ought to have lastly humiliated our species into relinquishing the harmful fiction that homo sapiens is essentially the most highly effective organism on this planet. To repurpose a Yiddish proverb: we plan, viruses snicker.

Regardless of the purpose, we blitzed by means of our children’ meds, particularly fever-reducing ones. Apparently, so did each different household with younger kids in Toronto. Instantly, the cabinets have been naked. It’s all dad and mom are speaking about, to the extent we’re speaking in any respect. This morning, once I mentioned hiya to an acquaintance within the schoolyard and requested the way it was going, he simply shook his head in disbelief and let loose a zombie-like grunt.

After assessing our present provide — low — I hit the street. I selected a method of mining my community for confirmed sightings, as a result of a pal with a feverish child had lately pushed from her dwelling in west-end Toronto all the way in which to Mississauga, stopping at 11 pharmacies and shops alongside the way in which, with out discovering a single product.

I blasted my discussion groups and social media and hit our closest Consumers Drug Mart. The cabinets have been barren, however my first tip rolled in. An acquaintance mentioned to strive the pharmacy inside our native No Frills. The cabinets have been naked there, too, however I approached the pharmacist, who considerably furtively produced the holy grail of pediatric over-the-counter analgesics: toddler Tylenol.

A part of the depth of demand for these merchandise is as a result of they will’t simply be swapped. Children’ dosages are decided by their weight, and it’s harmful to get it improper: Tylenol may be very protected when taken on the appropriate dosage, however could cause extreme liver toxicity in excessive quantities. Acetominophen is the main reason behind acute liver failure in Canada, with over 4,000 hospitalizations for overdose yearly.

So whereas I can provide our child liquid Tylenol meant for larger youngsters, it includes calculating the right dosage at a focus of 160 mg per 5 ml as an alternative of 80 mg per 1 ml. The maths isn’t unimaginable, however I had by no means tried it earlier than this fall — why danger it? The primary time I needed to do it, I had a pediatrician pal verify my calculations, and I used to be nonetheless nervous.

However even swapping one kids’s product for one more isn’t an choice proper now. At pharmacy after pharmacy, I heard employees apologetically explaining the way to crush up grownup capsules for teenagers. I ran into one girl at a Costco pharmacy making an attempt to calculate the dicey math — her six-year-old wanted 360 mg, however grownup capsules are available in 500 mg.

“So how are you supposed to do this?” she mentioned. “I don’t wish to kill his liver.”

Compounding pharmacies, which combine treatment from scratch, supply acetaminophen for kids. However the treatment must be refrigerated and consumed inside 14 days, and may price $40 to $70 a bottle. (Off-the-shelf merchandise final for two-plus years and value about $11 to $15.)

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One other hurdle that’s laborious to convey in information tales is that children are very tiny individuals who didn’t create this drawback and don’t perceive why it’s occurring. Our four-year-old loves bubblegum-flavoured chewable Tylenol, and hates the rest. When a small youngster wakes up within the night time feverish and crying, it is rather, very troublesome to get them to swallow one thing they don’t wish to swallow, and anybody who scoffs at that is welcome to come back to my home at 2 a.m. and take a look at.

At No Frills, I wheedled. The shop was limiting merchandise to 1 per buyer, however I’ve two youngsters. I scored a field of grape-flavoured chewables — not bubblegum, however significantly better than nothing.

Onward. At one other pharmacy with a current confirmed sighting, nothing. I drove all the way in which throughout city chasing one other tip, and scored a second bottle of grape chewables for a pal. Then one other strikeout, however our photographer prompt making an attempt Costco, so I acquired on the Gardiner Expressway.

That is the place issues took a darkish flip. Earlier than I even reached the pharmacy inside Costco, I overheard one other girl asking an worker about kids’s Tylenol. That they had none. I checked anyway and met the lady making an attempt to determine the way to keep away from an overdose for her youngster. (I directed her to my No Frills.) At pharmacy after pharmacy, I used to be at all times behind an much more determined mum or dad.

In the meantime, my cellphone was pinging off the hook — not with suggestions, however with distress. A pal’s toddler daughter suffered a extreme traumatic burn, and as soon as she was dwelling from the hospital, they needed to deploy their whole neighborhood to maintain the child on a gentle provide of painkillers. A colleague had simply dropped some out of a streetcar door, “which felt like a drug deal,” she mentioned.

One other pal’s son had his tonsils eliminated yesterday, as ours had in Might. It’s a standard process however an extremely painful restoration, and I winced studying her message. “Please let me know when you discover any!!!” she wrote. Her six-year-old “is in a lot ache, however nobody has any Tylenol,” she wrote. She additionally needed to strive 5 pharmacies earlier than discovering amoxicillin, a previously-common antibiotic.

The sheer weight of distress started to smother my willpower, and the chilly rain started pouring down. I made the dangerous alternative of a hotdog for lunch. I struck out at six extra pharmacies in a row.

In the long run, after seven hours of driving and 13 shops, I discovered three bottles of Tylenol, one toddler and two chewables. In some unspecified time in the future within the late afternoon, “Celebration” by Kool and the Gang got here on the automotive radio. I smacked the dial off angrily.

After the subsequent cease, REM’s “It’s the Finish of the World As We Know It” got here on. I left it on.

Editor’s word: two hours after she returned from her mission to search out kids’s Tylenol, the writer’s child vomited throughout her.

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