At least two children with intestinal conditions have been treated in a Tennessee hospital because their parents could not find the formula they needed amid the nationwide formula shortage.
Dr. Mark Corkins, a pediatric gastroenterologist at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, told NBC affiliate WRAL that he treated a toddler and a preschooler who require a special type of formula that their parents have not been able to find during the formula shortage. The toddler was discharged Tuesday after being admitted last week, and the preschool-age child was admitted in April and is still in the hospital, a spokesperson for Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital told TODAY.
The children have short gut syndrome, the spokesperson said, also known as short bowel syndrome, a condition that can lead to poor absorption of nutrients. The children cannot absorb other types of formulas and ended up getting dehydrated and "falling behind," Corkin told WRAL. He's been treating the children with IV fluids.
"We’re trying to do some different quote-unquote 'doctoring' of formulas that aren't usually used for this kind of a situation to try to see if we can find something that will work," he told WRAL.
He stressed that this situation is particular to the children with this specific intestinal disorder, but believes other kids could be hospitalized if the shortage persists.
"This is not every child, not normal children, but literally the formula recall has led to these children requiring hospitalization," Corkins told NBC News correspondent Jo Ling Kent on TODAY Wednesday.
Is it safe to change your baby's formula during the shortage?
Mom of a 3-month-old with a dairy allergy Candace Hendrix told TODAY that she's currently relying on formula samples from her pediatrician after giving her son a different type of formula due to the shortage.
“I wasn’t aware of the extent of his allergen, and he had a terrible allergic reaction," she said. “My worst fear is that when I call (the pediatrician) to schedule a pickup for samples that they will say sorry, that they don’t have any more, and I don’t know what I would do at that point."
For parents of children with specific dietary needs searching for formula, Dr. Blake Bergeron, a pediatrician at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital, said to compare all the ingredients of the new formula with what you've been using to make sure they're the same. If so, then that product is an acceptable alternative.
For parents of children without dietary restrictions, Bergeron stressed that "whatever they can get their hands on is what they should use. ... For the vast majority of families hearing about this shortage, they need to know that all of those formulas are totally fine."
If you have any questions at all, regardless of your child's diet, contact your pediatrician.
Where can you find formula for your baby?
While it's frustrating and might take hours to find formula, Bergeron said not to give up. Keep checking every store in your community, both big box and mom and pop, and online. Manufacturer websites sometimes sell directly to consumers, and you may also be able to get formula from a local food bank, Bergeron said.
Whether you're buying formula online or in person, make sure you know where it's coming from and that it's sealed when you get it.
Never dilute baby formula or make it at home. And if your child has dietary needs, be cautious when substituting different kinds of formula, always compare the ingredients, and call your pediatrician with any questions.
When will the formula shortage end?
The children being hospitalized in Memphis comes as the House of Representatives introduced legislation Tuesday for an additional $28 million in emergency funding for the Food and Drug Administration to combat the formula shortage. It will vote on the bill Thursday.
The FDA also told NBC News that it is taking measures to loosen restrictions to import formula from foreign countries, but it could still be weeks before products hit store shelves.
In addition to clearing the way for imports, the FDA has reached an agreement with one of the nation's largest formula makers, Abbott Nutrition, to resume operations at the company's Michigan plant.
The facility was shut down in February after the FDA investigated complaints that four infants that drank its formula were hospitalized with bacterial infections. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the formula may have contributed to the deaths of two infants. Abbott said there is no evidence linking its product with the illnesses. The FDA is still investigating.
Millions of parents are becoming desperate as the hunt for the proper formula for their child gets more difficult. One father told TODAY that he went to nine stores in search of formula for his 2-month-old son.
"It’s pretty scary because he can’t eat real food yet, so it’s like, if he doesn't have milk, then we don’t know what we’re going to do," Jamari Phillips said.