What to do if your child gets sick this holiday season

Knowing when to seek medical care for your child and which resource to consult can save your family lengthy wait times in the hospital

The holidays are a busy time for pediatric hospitals. It’s prime time for viruses, a lot of medical clinics are closed and doctors may be on vacation.

The Montreal Children’s Hospital is urging caregivers to consider other resources for non-urgent health issues this winter (like colds, flu, gastroenteritis and ear infections) before bringing their child to the emergency department.

Many cases can be treated more quickly and efficiently in a clinic setting and are not, in fact, emergencies.  Knowing when to seek medical care for your child and which resource to consult when it’s less urgent can save your family lengthy wait times in the hospital and improve access to care for true emergencies.

When your child is sick with a non-urgent health problem, consider the following tips to help guide your decision about where to seek help:

  1. Contact your child’s pediatrician/family doctor to get an appointment.
  2. For those people who don’t have a family doctor, consult the Montreal Children’s Hospital website to register for one. The hospital also offers a Google map of clinics that offer appointments 365 days a year on the same or the next day. Appointments can often be made online by clicking on each clinic’s website via the map.
  3. Info-Santé (dial 811) is a free and confidential telephone service for people living in Quebec. Nurses are available 24/7 to offer advice based on symptoms.  They can answer your questions and direct you to the most appropriate resource in your region.

Here are a few examples of when you could call Info-Santé 811:

  • You have a seasonal flu that persists several days and you are wondering if you should go see a doctor
  • Your child wakes up with a high fever and you are wondering if you should take them to emergency
  • You are wondering what to do in order to relieve itching and swelling caused by an insect bite
  • You have questions regarding health network resources

Prevention is key

There are also proactive measures parents can take to keep their families healthy, even during viral season. These include:

  1. Scheduling annual flu shots for everyone in the family (even if not all members qualify for the free vaccine offered in Quebec CLSCs, flu shots are offered in nearly any pharmacy for a small fee).
  2. Wiping the nose with a tissue, washing hands, and coughing into elbows as much as possible.
  3. Staying home when you or your child is sick to avoid spreading viruses to others.