Pharmacy & Healthcare

Sick kid season: A parent's survival guide for the 'tripledemic'

Here’s what you should know—and have in your medicine cabinet—as COVID-19, flu and RSV continue to wreak havoc on our youngest patients.
Elyse Russo, Walgreens Stories
Parents of young children know all too well that this respiratory illness season is a doozy. Health officials started using the word “tripledemic” to warn people of what might lay ahead, the three pathogens at play including COVID-19, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV.

As students headed back to school in the fall, COVID-19 cases took a backseat while flu and RSV ticked upward. At one point, hospitalizations among children reached 13 per 100,000 cases—a rate not seen in more than a decade, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows.

The CDC says that nearly all children will get an RSV infection by the time they are 2 years old, but the surge in cases this season was unusual.

“It is likely a consequence of COVID-19 precautions changing or being removed on a broad scale, such as lifting the mask mandate and social distancing,” says Dr. Kevin Ban, global chief medical officer at Walgreens Boots Alliance. “In addition to the fact that babies born during the pandemic were not exposed to regular common viruses, including RSV, and early exposure can help build up immunity, so they are now more susceptible.”
Amy Moser, PharmD
Walgreens Pharmacy Manager Amy Moser, PharmD.
As COVID-19 cases are now on the rise, pharmacy manager Amy Moser, PharmD, is seeing a lot of overwhelmed parents come in and out of her Walgreens store in Mt. Airy, North Carolina.

“The parents don’t seem to get a break,” Moser says. “They’re all trying to find that balance of helping their child feel better without giving them too much medicine.”

Although it’s hard to predict what the rest of the current season of respiratory illness will look like, parents can at least to try to be as prepared as they can. Moser shared some advice from the front lines:
  • Pinpoint and treat the symptom: When purchasing an over-the-counter medication for your child, Moser recommends trying to pinpoint the symptom you’re hoping to treat – is it cough or congestion, for daytime or nighttime? That will help you narrow down the best option.
  • Sometimes one medication will work for both children: If you’ve got more than one sick child at home—and let's face it, when one goes down, they all go down—Moser says to look at a medication’s recommended age range to see if it will help all your little ones, “so you don’t have to buy the entire over-the-counter pharmacy.”
  • Ask a pharmacist to help with infant-child medicine conversions: If your local Walgreens only has children’s ibuprofen, for example, but you need it for your infant, Moser says your pharmacist should be able to create the right dosage just by knowing the baby’s weight and doing a bit of math.
  • Consider homeopathic medicines or natural remedies: If your child is too young for traditional medicines, Moser says Walgreens stocks some homeopathic medicines that might do the trick. She also recommends more “natural” illness advice like encouraging fluids and using a humidifier.
  • Add flavor to prescription medicines for kids: If your child receives a prescription medication, and makes a fuss about taking it, Moser says to ask your Walgreens pharmacist to add some flavoring to it. At her pharmacy, they have bubblegum, grape and banana flavoring on hand. She added that the flavoring doesn’t just have to be for kids, either.
  • Get medicine delivered to your door. Earlier this month, Walgreens announced 24-hour same-day delivery at markets across the country, which means you can get cough syrup for your little one delivered to your home in the middle of the night. Or, you can place a curbside pickup order through or the Walgreens app, which is easier than going into the store with a sick child in tow.
And finally, after helping a family figure out what they need for their sick children, Moser always offers a bit of encouragement:

“When you’ve got sick kids, I know parents just want to take all the pain away, but I just always try to reassure them like, ‘You’re doing a good job. You got this!’”

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