The Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario is warning families that wait times at its emergency department are closer to late winter peak levels than typical mid-October volumes.

CHEO said its ER is 15 per cent busier now than it was in October 2016.

In a news release the hospital asks families to prepare for longer waits than usual for non-serious cases, and to consider taking their children elsewhere.

"Before making a trip to emergency and facing potentially long waits as we manage higher volumes, we encourage families to consult some of the available online resources to help their decision," said Dr. Gina Neto, CHEO's chief of emergency medicine, in the news release.

"Often the child's primary care provider is the best option."

In September, 44 per cent of children who arrived at the emergency department didn't need emergency care, CHEO said. That meant they had to wait until more urgent cases were seen to.

CHEO said wait times for these "low-acuity" patients could grow even longer over the next few weeks as staff adjust to a new digital health record system.

Before you go

Some of the conditions the hospital suggests could be better treated at home or by a family doctor are:

  • Fever above 38.5 C in otherwise healthy children who are generally well when given ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
  • The common cold, mild asthma that responds to treatment with a puffer, or mild breathing problems caused by a cough or nasal congestion.
  • Vomiting or diarrhea fewer than three or four times a day, or ongoing diarrhea two weeks or less after having stomach flu.

CHEO said while some treatments are only available in emergency rooms, others can be taken care of in community clinics, labs and doctors' offices, often more quickly than parents might expect.