Woman wearing a Santa Hat is having a headache

Emergency physicians are offering tips to stay out of the hospital when an illness strikes.

SURREY – Up to 20 per cent of Emergency visits can be avoided, and over the holidays Emergency departments typically see patient visits spike by about 7 per cent, so Emergency physicians are offering tips to stay out of the hospital when an illness strikes.

“The last thing you want to do is visit the Emergency department when you and your family are off over the holidays,” says Dr. Neil Barclay, regional medical director for Emergency medicine at Fraser Health. “Many physicians in the community enjoy the same time off away from their practice, so it’s good to know your options in advance in case you have a medical need and want to avoid the Emergency department.”

Dealing with a health emergency is straightforward: for immediate care in the event of chest pain, shortness of breath, serious bleeding or broken bones call 9-1-1 or go to your nearest hospital Emergency. But dealing with something you know is not an emergency can be less straightforward.

Before the holiday office and store closures take care of yourself by stocking your medicine cabinet with over-the-counter pain relievers, cold medications and antacids to relieve symptoms of minor illnesses. Your local pharmacist can provide you with advice in this area. Also, make sure you have enough of your prescription medications – see your doctor for refills and get them filled before the holidays, as some places will reduce the hours they are open during this time. Have medications on hand in case a chronic condition like emphysema flares up when your doctor is unavailable.

Dr. Barclay also suggests parents understand when their child’s fever or ear infection requires a doctor’s care and how to treat the symptoms when it does not. Calling 8-1-1 is a good source of advice; rarely is a trip to the ER necessary.

Dr. Barclay’s tips for a safer, healthier, merrier holiday season – out of the Emergency: 

  1. For any health concern, call your family doctor first. Your family doctor knows you and your medical history. In some cases, same-day urgent appointments may be available if you ask. 
  2. If your family doctor is not available, check medimap.ca for a walk-in clinic, wait times and hours. Medimap.ca is in most communities in Fraser Health although not all walk-ins are yet participating. Request that a copy of the visit be sent to your family doctor.
  3. For trusted health advice call 8-1-1, HealthLinkBC, available 24 hours/day, 7 days/week. Speak with a representative who will help you find health information and services, or connect you with a nurse for health advice, a dietitian for nutrition information or a pharmacist (weeknights 5-9) for medication advice.
  4. For an urgent medication refill speak with your pharmacist. Your pharmacist may be able to provide an emergency refill of your prescription, including medications for chronic conditions. Contact your pharmacist for minor issues that might be managed with over-the-counter medications.
  5. For a mental health concern call the Fraser Health Crisis Line, 24/7 at 1-877-820-7444. 
  6. For a child/youth mental health crisis call Fraser Health’s START program at 1-844-782-7811 (Christmas hours: Dec. 24 (11:45 p.m.-5 p.m.;) Dec. 25/26/Jan 1 closed. Tuesday Dec. 27-Fri. Dec. 30 9 a.m.-9 p.m.; New Year’s Eve 12 p.m.-9 p.m.). For concerns after hours, you can call the 24/7 Fraser Health Crisis Line. 
  7. For a possible poisoning or exposure to a toxic substance, call Poison Control at 1-800-567-8911.
  8. For an urgent dental concern such as a traumatic injury to the mouth or jaw, severe pain that can’t be controlled with over-the-counter meds, swelling or ongoing bleeding visit BCdental.org and look for dental emergency. All dentists in B.C. are required to provide patients with emergency dental care when the need arises, either themselves or by making arrangements with another dentist.

For critical or life-threatening conditions call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest Emergency room. 

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