Forsyth County parents struggle with illnesses, shortages

Kimberly Bond
Children have seen increased rates of respiratory disease this winter, leading to more pediatrician visits.Photo byGetty Images

(Forsyth County, GA) Parents in Forsyth County and throughout Georgia who have been dealing with a series of shortages on top of a difficult viral season are hoping for some relief. Families with young kids have had trouble finding everything from formula to medications this year while dealing with long wait times at local medical offices, but some are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Formula shortage

Last year, formula shortages had parents searching stores all over the county to find the right brands and formula types to feed their young children. Forsyth County residents helped each other by sharing information about which stores had formula and donating unused bottles and cans in online parenting groups.
Some parents are struggling to find specialty formulas for infants with special dietary needs.Photo byAlpharetta, Milton, and Cumming GA: Connect Moms on Facebook

The U.S. formula supply was impacted by Abbott Nutrition's recalls in February 2022. Abbott controlled 42% of the U.S. formula market, so the shortage became acute quickly. To help mitigate the formula shortage, Congress temporarily suspended steep tariffs on imported formula so that more supply could reach the U.S.

However, though the formula shortage is still ongoing, the temporary tariff waiver expired on January 6. Some parents fear this could lead to more empty shelves or price hikes when inflation is already impacting grocery bills.

A tough winter cold-and-flu season

With the 2022 back-to-school season and the arrival of cooler temperatures, it soon became clear that this viral season was going to be unusually harsh. Nationwide, surging numbers of flu, rhinovirus, and RSV had parents on edge after the exhaustion of dealing with the pandemic for two years.

Roswell Pediatrics, a local pediatric practice with offices in Cumming, Alpharetta, and Crabapple, said they were “extremely busy” with a high volume of children arriving with many different illnesses.

“As seen in other pediatric practices, urgent care centers, and hospitals in the area, our office faces unprecedented patient needs,” they announced in their fall newsletter. The practice decided to temporarily stop accepting new patients except for newborns so the health professionals can accommodate existing patients who need sick visits.
The Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Urgent Care in The Collection at Forsyth sees kids during the evening and on weekends.Photo byYellow Pages

The Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA) website similarly announced, “We are experiencing high volumes, which has led to increased wait times in our emergency departments and urgent care locations.” To help ease overcrowding issues, CHOA announced in January that they are limiting visitors to two parents or caregivers in their emergency rooms and urgent care centers such as the one at The Collection at Forsyth.

Medication shortages

Just when children were getting sick in record numbers, a shortage of some prescription medications and kids’ pain and fever medications sent parents scrambling again. Antiviral medications like Tamiflu were in short supply because of increased demand during the intense flu season. Antibiotics commonly used to treat children’s bacterial infections like amoxicillin also became harder to obtain (though antibiotics don’t treat viral infections, secondary bacterial infections like ear or eye infections are more likely after children are infected with a virus).

Other medication shortages were a result of ongoing supply chain and manufacturing issues that popped up during the COVID-19 pandemic. In October, the FDA announced there was a shortage of the medication Adderall, which is used for the treatment of ADHD and narcolepsy.

The medication shortages stressed parents who were already worn out from caring for their sick children, often having to rearrange work and school schedules to stay home. Some families found themselves visiting multiple pharmacies to get the medicine their kids needed.
Parents looking for kids' pain and fever medicines found only empty shelves at the Kroger near Castleberry Road in December.Photo byKimberly Bond

“We didn’t have any [children’s pain medicines] in stock for at least a couple of weeks,” confirmed a pharmacy associate at a Forsyth County Walgreens. But today, children’s ibuprofen and acetaminophen are slowly reappearing on the shelves. As more products came back in stock, Walgreens decided to lift purchase restrictions it had put in place for children’s medicines.

According to CBS News, experts expect that there may still be some supply issues throughout the remainder of the winter cold-and-flu season. However, they don’t expect the problem to be as long-lasting as the formula shortage or the issues with prescription medications.

A January 10 statement on the FDA website said “[The] FDA is continuing to closely monitor the pediatric ibuprofen and acetaminophen supplies which have experienced increased demand since the fall of 2022 due to increases in respiratory illnesses. We are working closely with the manufacturers on their efforts to further increase supply in response to the increased demand.”

Some good news

January 20 marked three years since the U.S. announced its first confirmed case of COVID-19. Many children have spent most of their lives under the pandemic’s shadow, with all the shortages and illnesses that came along with it.

But for weary Forsyth County families, there are some glimmers of hope. Some children’s medicines are returning to shelves. Abbott is making infant formula again and announced plans to build a new $500 million facility for specialty formulas to increase domestic supply (though it’s unclear whether the new DOJ criminal investigation might change those plans). And a CDC report last week indicated that emergency room visits for COVID-19, flu, and RSV all finally went down, dropping to the lowest levels seen in the past three months across all age levels. Flu activity in Georgia is now considered “low” after weeks in the “very high” and “high” categories in November and December.
Georgia is now at a "low" level of flu activity for the first time in months.Photo byCenters for Disease Control

With any luck, these positive trends will continue. Local parents will get some relief, and kids will get a chance to just be kids.

Have you been affected by formula or medication shortages? Comment below or email to let us know.

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I'm a writer, editor, and journalist with a background in law and science. I love writing about interesting local places and events in Forsyth County, especially new businesses or family-friendly experiences.

Cumming, GA

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