CHICAGO (WLS) -- Doctors at Lurie Children's Hospital are asking parents to take their children with flu symptoms to the pediatrician, not the emergency room.
This comes after an outbreak in flu cases has led parents to bring their children to the emergency room, even for mild flu symptoms.
"We're in the midst of an influenza outbreak," said Dr. Tina Tan, an infectious disease physician at Lurie Children's Hospital.
With no cure for the common, contagious virus, emergency doctors and nurses said parents are racing sick children to the hospital unnecessarily.
"I would say probably about 90 percent of kids who present in ER could be seen by their pediatrician first, and then referred here," said Tan.
Thursday, five Chicago area hospitals were on bypass status - too full to take more patients.
"If your child has a low grade fever and maybe is having vomiting and diarrhea, some cough and runny nose, you probably should call your pediatrician first," said Tan.
Time waiting on busy doctors and nurses in hospitals, sometimes for more than four hours, can expose a sick child or healthy adult to more illnesses.
"If your child is having very high fevers that you cannot bring down with Tylenol, having vomiting and diarrhea and can't keep anything down, or having trouble breathing, these are all things that should get the parent to bring the child to the ER," said Tan.
Doctors said hand sanitizer and soap are the best antidotes for the flu season, as well as getting the flu vaccine.
Although the vaccine is only 34 percent effective, it could make a difference in severity and duration of flu symptoms, doctors said.