The Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario is asking parents whose children have less-urgent symptoms to avoid the hospital because it is currently in the busiest viral season in its 38-year history.

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CHEO's emergency room treated 265 children within a 24-hour period on Wednesday. (Google StreetView)

February and March are typically the busiest months for the hospital, it said in the release, but the hospital added its emergency department has seen 15 per cent more patients than 2011 and 33 per cent more patients than 2010.

The hospital also said it treated 265 patients during a 24-hour period Wednesday and blames the bad viral season to high rates of respiratory infections and viral illnesses.

"CHEO will always make sure that kids who urgently need our help will get our help. But it’s important that families with less-urgent conditions look at other options available to them in the community," said Dr. Ken Farion, the medical director at CHEO's emergency department.

Ottawa Public Health also told CBC News Friday the illnesses causing increased visits to CHEO are not related to influenza.

Officials said there have only been 10 lab-confirmed cases of influenza reported in Ottawa since Sept. 1, compared to 115 cases during the same period during 2009 and 2010.

Hospital makes clear what patients should go to emergency

The hospital wants parents to bring their children to their family doctor or use a community clinic, if possible, instead of waiting six to eight hours in an emergency waiting room.

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A mother and son sit and wait in the CHEO emergency department waiting room. (CBC)

CHEO did list the following conditions as ones that need emergency care in hospital:

  • Many episodes of diarrhea or vomiting in a day and signs of dehydration.
  • Under three months of age and has a fever over 38 C or 100.4 F.
  • Develops a rash that does not turn white when you push on it.
  • Broken bone.
  • Fever and difficult to wake up or very sleepy.
  • Severe pain, including chest pain or tightness.
  • Shortness of breath, choking or difficulty breathing.
  • Sudden, severe headaches, vision problems, sudden weakness, numbness and/or tingling in the face, arm or leg.
  • Repeated vomiting following an injury to the head or belly.
  • Serious mental health crisis.

CHEO added it earned a bonus in funding during its last fiscal year by treating 90 per cent of patients within a wait time target.