Cold and flu season is back, but it looks a little bit different this year. COVID-19 is still circulating in our communities, and there has been an increase in respiratory viruses in BC, including Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV).

The shortage of cold and flu medicine in Canada has been frustrating for everyone. It can be especially worrying for parents with young kids at home.

Acetaminophen (common brand name: Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil) comes in baby, child, and adult versions. These medications are used to treat fever and pain. Ibuprofen can also help reduce swelling, bruising, pain, and redness following an injury. Giving adult medication to a child without talking to a doctor first can put them at risk for poisoning and overdose.

More than half of all poisonings in BC involve young children, with children between one and three years of age at the highest risk. Cough and cold medicines and pain and fever medicine are common reasons for poisoning in children.

So if your child has come down with a virus, know what to do to prevent a trip to the emergency department:

  • Most healthy children can fight respiratory infections with rest and good hydration without needing to go to a hospital or see a doctor.
    • Medications such as Tylenol can temporarily lower a temperature and make a child more comfortable. It does not treat the underlying cause of fever.
    • Medication is not always needed to reduce a child’s temperature. You can try to make your child more comfortable by using a cool cloth on their face and body, and by offering plenty of fluids.
  • DO NOT give children under 12-years-old adult pain and fever medication without consulting a health care professional. There is a high risk of poisoning and overdose.
  • Don’t purchase fever and pain medication from third parties or other unknown sources.
  • The average normal body temperature is around 37°C (98.6°F). Fever is the body’s way of naturally fighting infection.

Does my child need to go to emergency?

You might not need to take your child to the emergency department. Fever-related reasons why your child could need emergency care are: 

  • Fever of over 38 degrees and is less than 3 months old
  • Children who experience seizures due to a rapid increase in temperatures
  • Children with a fever for more than three days
  • Children whose temperature repeatedly rises above 40°C
  • High fever or lethargy, without improvement with acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil)
  • Loss of consciousness
  • They seem dehydrated, diarrhea and vomiting, lack of tears or urine over several hours
  • Blue lips or skin, or appears very pale
  • Excessively cranky, fussy or irritable
  • Has difficulty breathing
  • Has severe abdominal or chest pain/pressure
  • Is excessively sleepy, lethargic or does not respond
  • Has ingested a toxic chemical, including a suspected drug overdose

Still have questions?

  • If you have any questions or concerns that your child may have taken or been given too much of a pain or fever-reducing medicine, please contact the BC Drug and Poison Information Centre at 1-800-567-8911 or 604-682-5050.
  • Review tips from BC Children’s Hospital on when to take your child to the emergency department.
  • Phone HealthLinkBC at 8-1-1 to get your questions answered by a health care professional.

1 BC Drug and Poison Information Centre. British Columbia Poison Control Centre Fact Sheet. Available from  

2 Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Acetaminophen vs. Ibuprofen: What’s the Difference? Available from

3 Caring for Kids. Fever and temperature taking. Available from

4 BC Children’s Hospital. When to bring your child to the emergency department. Available from

5 Health Canada. Children’s ibuprofen/acetaminophen shortage: What you should know and do. Available from  

6 CTV News. (November 7, 2022). Tylenol shortage contributing to kids’ hospital crush: ER nurse. Available from

7 BCCDC. It’s respiratory illness season. Available from

8 Fraser Health. (November 10, 2022.) Should I bring my child to the emergency room? Available from