PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Amoxicillin, a common drug used to treat ear infections and strep throat in children, is in short supply amid increased demand as health officials warn about an increasing surge of respiratory illnesses this winter.

However, RSV, influenza and the common cold are caused by viruses, while amoxicillin is an antibiotic and can only treat bacterial infections. So what’s the connection?

Medical experts told KOIN 6 News on Friday a few things are causing this amoxicillin shortage, mainly in the liquid version. In some cases, experts explained, bacterial infections can happen while a child is fighting a viral infection, such as RSV or the flu, and there are many sick children.

Experts also say sometimes worried parents insist on a prescription — even if the child is diagnosed with a virus, such as a cold or RSV — and that an antibiotic won’t help cure those illnesses.

There are other antibiotics that can be prescribed for children, and experts are encouraging parents to ask their pediatrician for some options in case they can’t find amoxicillin, in addition to there being different doses and strengths of the antibiotic and to only give what’s prescribed.

They also recommend that if a parent’s usual pharmacy is out of what they need, they can call other pharmacies that could have a current supply and transfer that prescription over. If you have any leftover amoxicillin in your medicine cabinet, pharmacists tell you to toss it since it loses its strength and you are supposed to use all of it up for the illness for which it was prescribed.