Overcrowding in pediatric Emergency Departments

Flu and gastroenteritis: How to avoid the Emergency Department during the Holiday Season

Montreal, December 28, 2016 – Every year, Montreal hospitals must manage higher patient volumes in Emergency Departments over the Holidays. The holiday season is a time for get-togethers and gatherings of all sorts; this results in increased numbers of flu and gastroenteritis cases in late December and early January. Most children who consult the city's emergency departments for problems related to the flu, gastroenteritis and fever have mild flu-like symptoms. In addition to spreading the virus, increased visits put a strain on emergency departments which leads to longer wait times, especially for non-urgent cases.

Care at home: Often the best solution

"Any patient presenting with a cold, flu or gastroenteritis will wait several hours before seeing a doctor in an emergency department. Mild flu symptoms, gastroenteritis and fever that generally lasts 3 to 5 days can be treated at home. Emergency services are reserved for those whose conditions require urgent care," says Dr. Antonio D'Angelo, chief medical officer of CHU Sainte-Justine's Emergency Department. "If you have the flu, drink a lot of water and rest. You can also ask your pharmacist for advice on how to relieve your symptoms," he adds.

"Preventive measures such as vaccination and using good respiratory hygiene are two of the most effective ways to reduce the number of unexpected visits to emergency and avoid long wait times during the busiest time of year," says Dr. Tamara Gafoor, pediatric emergentologistat the MUHC's Montreal Children's Hospital. "Avoid contributing to the spread of influenza and gastroenteritis by washing your hands regularly, coughing or sneezing into your elbow, staying home when you're sick and avoiding contact with vulnerable people."

When to come to the Emergency Department

It is recommended that parents bring their child or teen to the Emergency Department in the following cases:

  • Your child is having trouble breathing (for example, he is breathing faster than normal; he is pale; his lips turn white or blue; he is coughing non-stop, choking or breathing irregularly).
  • Your child is hurt and may have a broken bone or need stitches.
  • Your child hurt himself and is now vomiting.
  • Your infant (under three months old) has a fever over 38°C or 100.4°F.
  • Your child is feverish and drowsy, and you are having trouble waking him up.
  • Your child has a rash and his skin doesn't turn white if you press on it.
  • Your child is vomiting and has diarrhea, is not producing tears, has a very dry mouth and has not urinated more than 2-3 times in the last 24 hours.

Alternatives to the Emergency Department

If you are concerned about a loved one’s health, call Info-Santé at 8-1-1. Info-Santé nurses are available 24/7 to advise you and tell you when and who to consult. You can also contact your family doctor, one of the five Centres intégrés universitaires de santé et de services sociaux (CIUSSS) in Montréal, or a network clinic to see a doctor without an appointment. Pharmacists are also excellent resources for information.

To check the opening hours for network clinics and CIUSS in Montréal, head to Santé Montréal’s portal at  www.santemontreal.qc.ca/hiverensante . The CHU Sainte-Justine and Montreal Children's Hospital's websites also offer advice and information to help parents better assess the health of their loved ones. Head to  chusj.org/en/Home  or  thechildren.com/

- 30 –  


  • CHU Sainte-Justine
  • Montreal Children’s Hospital

For more information:          

Mélanie Dallaire

  • Communications consultant, Media relations
  • CHU Sainte-Justine               
  • Téléphone 514 345-7707 | Téléavertisseur 514 415-5727

Pamela Toman

  • Communications officer
  • Montreal Children’s Hospital
  • Téléphone 514  412-4400 poste 22742 | 514-349-5028