71,900 children in Connecticut have asthma and there has been a shortage of albuterol sulfate inhalation solution since October. Albuterol is a fast-acting medication used to treat asthma and other breathing issues. What do parents need to know about the continued albuterol shortage? Connecticut Children’s Melanie Sue Collins, MD, answers questions.

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Why is albuterol in short supply?

In late February 2023, the pharmaceutical company that produced the liquid albuterol filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and closed down three major plants. As a result, there is now only one company that is distributing albuterol sulfate inhalation solution.

Is there a shortage of albuterol inhalers?

Not at the moment. The shortage affects the liquid form of albuterol only—the kind used for nebulizers. Nebulizers are machines used to treat asthma attacks or other breathing issues in kids who have respiratory infections. Nebulizers turn liquid medication into a mist for kids to breathe.

My child has severe asthma. Will I be able to find albuterol at all?

With a little patience and creativity, yes. If it’s not at one pharmacy, it may be at another. Try smaller-scale pharmacies versus the larger chains first or try calling multiple pharmacies within a 10-mile radius, or however far you’re willing to travel. Resist the urge to panic—you’ll find it somewhere. Also, please stock only what you need. We’re all in this together, and resources last longer and become available to more people when we’re all considerate.

Albuterol sulfate, whose liquid form is currently in short supply, is often used in nebulizers as a breathing treatment for asthma

What’s the best albuterol alternative?

If you can’t find liquid albuterol for your child’s nebulizer, talk to your pediatrician about switching to an inhaler, even if your child seems too young. It’s important to use a spacer device—a plastic chamber with a mask or mouthpiece—so they breathe it in properly. Otherwise, the medication will simply sit in their mouth. If used successfully, an albuterol inhaler with a spacer can be equally as effective as the nebulizer.

There are other medications on the market, including alternative inhalers beside albuterol, too, but please talk to your pediatrician for the best treatment because every child is different. There are no over-the -counter medications that should be given to children for treatment of asthma or for an asthma attack.

>Related: Does My Child Have Nasal Allergies? 

What should I do if my child’s asthma symptoms or cough worsens?

It’s a good idea to talk to your pediatrician when symptoms change at all.  In fact, if you notice that your child’s cough wakes them up more than twice a week or if your child needs albuterol more than twice a week, other than before activity, definitely talk to your pediatrician about medication options to control your child’s symptoms. There may be a different type of treatment, like a controller medicine, that could help bring them relief.

>Related: 8 Common Questions About Asthma in Kids 

Always, always, talk to your pediatrician if you have concerns. 100%.