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Kids have the flu? Bed rest, fluids only fix

Glendale pediatrician Bradley Bursch examines a young patient for the flu, December 30, 2010.

December 30, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Sickness doesn't take a break during the holidays. Health officials report flu activity has begun to spike. It usually hits its peak in the Los Angeles area in January and February.According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), an average of 20,000 children under the age of five are hospitalized because of the flu each year.

Way before the CDC website can track it, Glendale pediatrician Bradley Bursch already knows flu activity is on the rise. He gives rapid flu tests to the kids with temperatures, aches and overall fatigue. The test identifies proteins unique to the flu, but the results aren't always accurate.

"There's more false negatives out there than you'd like, but it's still helpful because if you get a positive, you know you've got the flu," said Dr. Bursch. "But if you get a negative, it doesn't mean you don't."

The longer you've had flu symptoms, the less reliable the test becomes. And whether it's the flu or a cold, Dr. Bursch says 95 percent of the time the illness is viral, so most patients don't need antibiotics.

"It's pretty crazy how many kids, how many parents walk out of the doctor's off with prescriptions when they don't need them," said Dr. Bursch.

Dr. Bursch says if you haven't got one yet, now is the time to get a flu shot. The CDC recommends everyone six months and older get the flu vaccine.

If you or child is already sick, there isn't much you can do.

"All those cough suppressants, the cough medications that mom gave us, they don't really work," said Dr. Bursch.

It's frustrating for parents to hear, but the only remedy is plenty of fluids and a lot of rest.

"You're desperate to do something to help your kid, and all we've got is go home and go to bed," said Dr. Bursch.