Products like Children’s Tylenol are hard to find on store shelves. Photo by Kristen Mosbrucker/WYPR.

Pediatric medications are not easily found on store shelves across Maryland when parents need relief for sick children the most, during an unusual cold and flu season. Even behind the pharmacy counter with a doctor’s authorization, parents say they are hunting for some medications at several retailers to no avail. All of this is happening when the state has some of the highest rates of pediatric illnesses in recent years, particularly with the outbreak of Respiratory Syncytial Virus, otherwise known as the common cold that’s been sending children to hospitals overwhelmed by the influx.

Antibiotics such as Amoxicillin and Azithromycin are in short supply, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Fever reducing drugs, flu medication Tamiflu, and other medications from inhalers full of albuterol to nebulizer treatments, which turn liquid medication into a breathable mist, are hard to find.

“I think it’s very stressful for the providers [and] the caregivers,” said Lisa Polinsky, the assistant vice president for pharmacy services at LifeBridge Health, a regional hospital system which includes Sinai Hospital of Baltimore. “Physicians, nurses, pharmacists, everyone gets really anxious, if there’s the potential that we would not have a needed medication for a patient. It does cause quite a bit of stress when, especially when you’re having a surge of pediatric patients who may need an antibiotic for a secondary infection, or Tamiflu for influenza.”

There are 88 people in the hospital with Respiratory Syncytial Virus across the state, mostly children or older adults, during the largest outbreak in five years.

The outbreak of the virus appeared to peak when there were more than 250 people across Maryland hospitals a few weeks ago. But hospitalizations are not the only way communities are affected by the outbreak.

Many more children are battling illnesses similar to RSV and even bacterial infections in the past five years statewide who never show up in emergency rooms.

Medical experts say things could get worse as the weather gets colder and the flu and COVID pick up.

Read more (and listen) at WYPR.