Amid spike in respiratory illnesses, some Hawaii shelves run low on cold medicines

Hawaii doctors who are monitoring respiratory viruses are worried about more illness around holidays.
Published: Dec. 7, 2022 at 4:11 PM HST|Updated: Dec. 7, 2022 at 5:30 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Some Hawaii drug stores are running low on cold medicines and children’s painkillers ― a nationwide trend as demand increases along with respiratory viruses.

At a drug store in East Honolulu, some shelves for adult and children’s cold medicines were empty.

Drugmaker Johnson & Johnson says it’s seeing high demand and is working to increase production. Meanwhile, Hawaii doctors who are monitoring respiratory viruses are worried about more illness around holidays.

“A lot of folks are calling in for coughs and sniffles and it may not be RSV, COVID or flu when we swab, there’s a lot of other respiratory viruses circulating,” said Dr. Sharyl Shultz, who is family medicine at Kaiser Permanente.


Statistics show a slight increase in Hawaii COVID and flu cases while RSV peaked in October and November.

Shultz says Hawaii doctors are closely watching what’s happening on the mainland.

Emergency and hospital beds in Los Angeles County are filling amid a so-called “tridemic” and Hawaii typically lags the region by about a month.

“We are worried that with RSV circulating and with flu and COVID on the rise since Thanksgiving and will mostly likely continue through the holidays as we gather, we’ll be facing a respiratory trifecta,” Shultz said.

Patients are asking what to do.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t recommend over-the-counter cold medications in general for kids,” said Shultz.

Also, contact your provider.

“If there is more severe illness, significant coughing, any trouble breathing, high fever, any signs of dehydration especially in the keiki, we recommend that you may have to come in for further testing,” she added.

But for mild illness, Shultz gives her patients and children the same advice: “Rest up, drink water and you may have to stay home from school tomorrow.”

Doctors say it’s also a good idea to get vaccinated against COVID and the flu.