Respiratory Illness Continues to Severely Impact Hospitals, Now Whatcom Stores Also Experiencing Shortages of Kids’ Fever Medications
Two weeks ago we sent out a message to let you know that we’re seeing a large increase in respiratory sickness affecting kids - especially a virus called RSV. Hospital capacity has only gotten worse since then, and now we are also hearing about shortages of several prescription and over-the-counter drugs for children.
Whatcom residents are being seen in emergency rooms for respiratory illnesses at the highest rate we have ever seen, and our kids are being hospitalized at a rate that is four times higher than we have seen in at least the last five years. Hospitals across Washington are at or beyond pediatric bed capacity right now, and we’re asking you to please do everything you can to prevent and reduce the spread of respiratory illnesses so we can reduce the strain on our hospitals and healthcare providers, and keep our children healthy.
- There is a nationwide shortage of liquid amoxicillin (antibiotic). Most providers are aware and are prescribing alternative options.
- Whatcom county pharmacies are having trouble keeping up with demand for children’s pain and fever medications such as Tylenol and ibuprofen. As pharmacies are working to replace supplies, they may ask customers to limit the number that they purchase.
- Please know that not all fevers in children need to be treated with medications. A mild fever is part of the normal response to an infection, and we treat these mostly for comfort, not because treating fevers helps children get better faster.
“We're again in a situation where there might not be enough hospital beds for those who need care, and this is especially concerning when we consider very young, critically ill children,” said Dr. Amy Harley, co-health officer for the Whatcom County Health Department. "By following common sense prevention measures you, your family, and even your friends and neighbors can help make sure hospitals have beds for sick kids who need them.”
- Most children with RSV do well with the infection at home with supportive care.
- Be on the lookout for warning signs that the illness is becoming more than a cold, in which case you should talk to your healthcare provider.
- These warning signs include cough for more than 2 weeks, any fever in children under 3 months, or worsening or long-lasting fever in older children, difficulty breathing, severe lethargy, and signs of dehydration such as dry lips and mouth, lack of tears, or decreased urine output.
- Flu has arrived early this winter and is increasing quickly, especially in children.
- Record numbers of children are being seen in regional Emergency Departments and clinics.
- Pediatric units all over the state are full of children with respiratory illnesses.
What you can do
All the prevention measures that we’ve gotten good at to prevent the spread of COVID-19 also work to prevent the spread of other respiratory illnesses like RSV, whooping cough, and the flu.
- Keep anyone sick at home. Children should not attend school or daycare nor should they participate in any group activities when sick. We understand it is a strain on families when kids need to be kept home, but keeping sick people away from others whenever possible is critical to slow the spread of these illnesses.
- Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use hand sanitizer.
- Clean frequently touched surfaces often (e.g., doorknobs, mobile devices, toys).
- Cover coughs and sneezes with elbows or tissues.
- Avoid close contact (e.g., kissing, prolonged hugging) with sick people or when you have symptoms.
- Avoid sharing cups and eating utensils.
- If you are sick, wear a properly fitting mask when around others if it’s safe to do so. Children under 2 should not wear masks. Children 2-4 years old can wear a mask with adult supervision.
- If you are going to be around sick people or in a crowded place, wear a mask so you don't get sick and bring a virus home to your kids or family.
- Make sure your child is vaccinated against whooping cough, flu, and COVID-19. RSV isn’t the only respiratory sickness spreading right now. These others are diseases you and your kids can get vaccinated against. If you’re vaccinated, you might still get sick, but you are more likely to have a mild sickness and stay out of the hospital.
Visit the Please Keep Your Child Home webpage from Bellingham Schools for more guidance on when kids should stay home.