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CHU Sainte-Justine
Tuesday, December 16 2014
Press release

Flu or gastroenteritis: When to avoid visiting an emergency department during the holidays

High patient volumes in Montreal emergency departments

Montreal, Tuesday, December 16, 2014 – Every year as we approach the holiday season, Montreal hospitals must manage a higher volume of patient visits to their emergency departments. This time of year is known for get-togethers and gatherings of all sorts, which increases the number of flu and gastroenteritis cases in late December and early January. The majority of children and adults who visit Montreal emergency departments suffer from mild flu-like symptoms, gastroenteritis and fever. In addition to contributing to the spread of these viruses, this increased influx of patients causes significant pressure on emergency departments, increasing the waiting time for these non-urgent cases in particular.

Care at home : the best solution

"It is important that parents prepare for the flu season by learning how to prevent infection, how to care for minor illnesses and injuries at home and when to consult a doctor or go to the emergency department. Children who need urgent care are given priority. However, any patient presenting symptoms of a cold, the flu or gastroenteritis should expect to wait several hours to see a doctor in the emergency department. Whether you are a child or an adult, mild flu symptoms, gastroenteritis and fever -- viruses whose symptoms usually last between 3 to 5 days -- can be treated at home. Emergency services are reserved for those whose condition requires urgent care," says Dr. Antonio D'Angelo, Medical Director of CHU Sainte-Justine’s Emergency Department. "If you have the flu, drink plenty of water and rest. You can also ask your pharmacist for advice to relieve your symptoms," he adds.

"Preventive measures such as vaccination and the adoption of good respiratory etiquette are two of the most effective ways to reduce the number of unexpected visits to the emergency department and avoid the long wait times that accompany them during the busiest time of year," says Dr. Harley Eisman, Director of the Montreal Children’s Hospital of the MUHC’s Emergency Department. "Avoid contributing to the spread of influenza and gastroenteritis by regularly washing your hands, covering your mouth when coughing, staying home when you are sick and avoiding contact with vulnerable people.”

Flu vaccinations: the most effective protection

« There’s still time to get vaccinated and protect yourself against the flu and its related complications. The flu vaccine is especially recommended for people who are vulnerable due to age or a health condition, » explained Dr. Alexandra Kossowski, medical adviser in immunization at the public health department of the Agence de la santé et des services sociaux de Montréal. Dr. Kossowski would also like to remind everyone that the flu vaccine is available across Montreal. « I encourage you to visit your doctor, nurse or pharmacist or go to santemontreal.ca/externe/hiverensante/en to find vaccination clinics near you. »

Alternatives to emergency

If you are sick or worried about the health of a loved one, first call Info-Santé at 811. Info-Santé nurses are available 24/7 to advise you and tell you when and who to consult for health-related matters. You can also consult your family doctor, your local CSSS services or a network clinic to see a doctor without an appointment. Pharmacists are also excellent advisors.

For opening hours of network clinics and CSSS services in the Montreal area, you can visit the portal: www.santemontreal.qc.ca/externe/hiverensante/en/. CHU Sainte-Justine and the Montreal Children's Hospital’s websites also offer tips and information allowing parents to better assess the health of their loved ones. Visit their websites at  www.chusj.org, www.hopitalpourenfants.com.

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CHU Sainte-Justine
Montreal Children’s Hospital
Agence de la santé et des services sociaux de Montréal

For information

Mélanie Dallaire
Consultant, Media Relations
CHU Sainte-Justine
514 345-7707

Stephanie Tsirgotis
Communications Officer
Montreal Children’s Hospital
514 412-4400 ext. 23870

Media Relations
Agence de la santé et des services sociaux de Montréal
514 286-5709

Know more...

Before coming to the emergency department, visit the emergencies page

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Updated on 12/16/2014
Created on 12/16/2014
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