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CVS and Walgreens are limiting how many children’s pain relievers people can buy at one time amid a winter “tripling” of respiratory viruses, the companies said Monday.

In a statement, CVS said it is limiting the number of pain medications to two. Walgreens customers can purchase up to six pediatric fever relievers over the counter, the company said in a statement.

“Due to increased demand and various supplier challenges, over-the-counter products to reduce childhood fever are seeing limitations across the country,” Walgreens said.

Coverage applies to products purchased online or at drugstores, the companies said.

Walmart said in a statement that while the company has seen higher demand for children’s medicine this year, it has been able to meet that demand and there are no purchase restrictions.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services said the agency had tracked the increased demand for the drugs.

“All HHS operating units are involved and play a key role in addressing these concerns,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

In a separate statement, the Food and Drug Administration added that it cannot require companies to produce drugs, but works closely with drugmakers to “understand, mitigate, and prevent or reduce the impact of intermittent or increased demand for certain products.”

“FDA understands that manufacturers expect availability to continue to increase in the near future,” the statement said.

Doctors saw an early rise in respiratory illnesses among young children this fall, as infants and preschoolers contracted the flu and other viruses, including respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV.

Several US children’s hospitals have also recently identified a severe and invasive form of strep, which has killed at least 15 children in the UK since mid-September.

As of Monday, nearly 5,000 hospitals across the country were 78% full of inpatient beds, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Almost the same percentage of intensive care beds were being used, according to the data.

According to data released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of flu cases remains high but has declined in some areas.

The agency recorded nine child deaths last week, bringing the number of children who have died from the disease to 30 this season. Overall, the agency estimated 150,000 flu hospitalizations and 9,300 deaths.

Respiratory viruses have hit young children hard as many have stayed at home since the coronavirus pandemic hit nearly three years ago, leaving their immune systems vulnerable to common illnesses, experts say.

Valeria Antonshchuk contributed.


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