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The ERs at CHU Sainte-Justine and The Montreal Children’s Hospital are seeing a significant increase in number of children seeking care

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Published: 29 Oct 2009

Most children are presenting with very mild flu-like symptoms and fever

Most children are presenting with very mild flu-like symptoms and fever

The CHU Sainte-Justine and The Montreal Children’s Hospital of the McGill University Health Centre are currently seeing a significant increase in patients in their Emergency Departments. Children are arriving with mild flu-like symptoms and fever. The hospitals wish to remind parents that their Emergency Rooms are reserved for urgent care.  Mild flu-like symptoms should be treated at home.  Also, due to the increased demand for care, the hospitals are NOT testing children to determine if they have H1N1.

“The Emergency is unusually busy for this time of year,” says Dr. Harley Eisman, Medical Director, Emergency Department at The Montreal Children’s Hospital. “The increase is attributable to children coming in with mild flu-like symptoms and fever. This increase is resulting in extra pressures on the Emergency Department, and therefore, an increase in wait times.”

Dr. Eisman reminds parents that the H1N1 influenza is a relatively mild form of the flu and is very similar in severity to the annual flu virus. The only difference is that flu season has started earlier and more people are being infected.

Even though the second wave of the H1N1 virus has only just started, both ERs are already at 180% capacity. The Montreal Children’s Hospital Emergency Room is staffed and equipped to treat approximately 180 children per day.  The current daily average is 300. CHU Sainte-Justine is staffed and equipped to treat 180 per day and is currently seeing 250 children.

“Children in need of urgent care are our number one priority.  There is absolutely no wait for emergency care. However, any patient arriving with mild flu-like symptoms can expect to wait before seeing a health professional. It is important, that parents prepare for the flu season by educating themselves on ways to keep their children healthy, to manage minor illness and injury at home, to know when they should see a doctor and when they should visit the Emergency Department,” says Dr. Michael Arsenault, Medical Manager of Emergency Services at the CHU Sainte-Justine.

Dr. Arsenault points out that emergency rooms must be reserved for children who are seriously ill or injured. He says, if everyone runs to the ER when their child has a low-grade fever it will impinge on the staff’s ability to treat children whose lives are in danger.

Both physicians recommend parents refer to the Self-Care Guide distributed by the Québec Government. However, they want to point out a small error in the guide. The guide says that parents should consult a doctor as soon as possible if their child aged two or younger has a fever.  This is not accurate. Parents need only consult a doctor urgently if their newborn (three months and younger) has a fever of more than 38.3 Cº (100.9º F ). For all other children, a doctor should only be consulted if the child has a fever and other complications associated with the flu as described in the guide.

They also recommend you take your child or teenager to the emergency department if your child has:

    • Difficulty breathing (for example: breathing faster than normal; and look paler than usual or have whitish or bluish lips; are coughing excessively, choking or breathing irregularly).
    • An injury where it is suspected that a bone may be broken or stitches required.
    • Vomiting following an injury.
    • A fever over 38° C or 100.4° F and are under three months of age.
    • A fever and is difficult to wake up or is very sleepy.
    • A rash that does not turn white when you push on it.
    • Diarrhea, vomiting and have no tears, a very dry mouth, and have not urinated at least two to three times over the last 24 hours.

Both doctors ask families to visit their pediatrician or family doctor, unless they are dealing with a true emergency, as described above. If there is no community physician, or the physician is unavailable, families should go to their local CLSC or walk in clinic. You should be using the health care services available in your neighbourhood.  To learn where these services are located please call Info-Santé by dialing 8-1-1.

Not a Vaccination Centre

A reminder: neither the CHU Sainte-Justine nor The Montreal Children’s Hospital are H1N1 vaccination centres. To find the vaccination centre nearest your home call Info-Santé at 8-1-1 or go to: www.pandemiequebec.gouv.qc.ca.

For more information please call:

Lisa Dutton, Manager
Public Relations and Communications
The Montreal Children’s Hospital of the MUHC
(514) 412-4307

Mélanie Dallaire, Media relations consultant
CHU Sainte-Justine
(514) 345-7707

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