Resisting the urge to hoard children's Tylenol.
The pediatric medicine shortage is real. I faced a moral dilemma today.
Let’s call this one “Doc Dad Diaries.”
Sometime in December, my baby girl Sarah started waking up and crying around midnight. Until then, she had been a champion sleeper, sleeping through the night with ease far earlier in her life than her older sister had. The new unwelcome late night awakenings didn’t seem to be related to hunger.
Based on that, and her age, we began to suspect she might be teething. We didn't want to be reliant on pain medication, but on some nights, we gave her infant Tylenol. We didn’t have much lying around the house, so I went to the pharmacy to pick some up. That’s when I discovered that the pediatric medicine shortages I’d been hearing about were as bad as advertised. Having struck out here in Massachusetts, I figured I’d try again when we arrived in California for the holidays. I went to three places, and at each, the shelves were absolutely empty. It reminded me of one of those pictures of a Soviet department store. I took some pictures and asked Twitter if people around the country were having the same problem. Indeed they were, and still are.
Pictures of empty shelves from all over the United States started appearing in my feed. Later in our trip, some friends bailed us out, bringing some extra infant Tylenol they had lying around.
Since then, things have gotten a little better. Less midnight crying, more champion sleeping. But there are still nights where it seems like teething and sleeping are in a no-holds-barred face off.
So, when I was at the pharmacy today picking up a prescription for a mild pink eye outbreak in my home (which seems to have hit two of the four of us), I couldn’t help moseying over to the children’s medicine aisle to see what was up.
What I found was a familiar sight…
But, right before I turned and walked away, something caught my eye. A red box. I darted back over. Eureka! It was infant Tylenol. And not just one box, either. There were two more boxes behind it. I’d hit the jackpot. I quickly snatched up my prizes, chucked them into my shopping basket, and headed for the checkout line.
Two steps later, I felt a pang of guilt. “Do I really need all three boxes?” I thought. My mind conjured up the image of another parent who might soon be at that same spot, desperate for the very elixir that I had just hoarded into my stash of CVS stuff, leaving behind nothing for anyone else.
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Even though I knew we’d eventually go through all three bottles, I did the thing you’re supposed to do. I put one back. I suppose a more righteous person would have put two of the three boxes back. I justified the two to myself. “Everyone is hoarding,” I thought. “If I leave two, the next person will just take them both anyway.”
Now I’m writing this and feeling part saint and part sinner. I did a good thing and maybe I did a bad thing. I overcame the urge to hoard at the extreme, but not the urge to hoard just a li’l bit. It’s hard out here.
So, here’s my pledge. If someone in Cambridge, Mass is reading this, and is truly desperate for infant Tylenol in the next couple of months, just email me. If we still have the extra bottle, it’s yours.
Perfect! I have done the same thing! This reminds me when covid-19 first broke and the shelves were empty for regular Tylenol. I still had some, but it was almost gone. The shelves were empty. When I finally found some I bought one bottle because the shelf only had two. My first reaction to the shelves being empty for Tylenol was a stark reminder when people were hoarding toilet paper!
Besides the issues you so well described, we are now witnessing a possible paradigm change. Many industries have JIT (just in time) inventories. It reduces overhead and increases profits. Under normal circumstances, this is fine, but throw in a pandemic, then add supply chain problems, and we have a mess. My concern is that we have no depth to buffer a more challenging emergency. Imagine if COVID had remained at a 3% death rate or worst. What if it had had the death rate of MERS? How much is supply chain disruption needed before the scarcity of basic needs moves from hoarding to loss of civility and unrest? I find it unacceptable that three years into the pandemic and we are still having these issues. There is a need for more dialogue about this.