When to go to the emergency room

General notice

A child with a fever does not always need to be taken to emergency for consultation with a doctor. Illnesses such as colds, the flu and gastroenteritis can be treated at home, even when they affect children. See the specific pages to find out which situations require immediate consultation in the emergency department:

When in doubt, call Info-Santé 811 before going to emergency. A nurse will assess your situation and may be able to give you specific advice. The nurse will also be able to tell you if you should consult a doctor quickly.

Every year, about 50% of patients who visit the emergency room do not have urgent problems. This situation creates a bottleneck effect and prevents some people from having access to adequate healthcare. It is therefore very important to determine how urgent your problem is before you go to emergency.

Please avoid the emergency room, there are other options available:

If you or a family member has a health problem or a psychosocial problem, various resources in the health and social services network can help you.

Before you go to the emergency room, it is important for you to determine whether the problem you are dealing with is urgent and requires priority treatment or whether it can be treated in a non-urgent manner.

Urgent problems requiring priority treatment

Go to the nearest emergency room if your life or a family member’s life is in danger or if your condition or a family member's condition needs prompt attention.

For example, you must go to the emergency room if:

  • you have severe breathing problems or severe abdominal or chest pain;
  • a family member has suffered a severe injury;
  • a family member is going through a crisis and their mental state presents a danger to themselves or to others.

Most emergency rooms are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. When you arrive at the emergency room, a nurse will ask you various questions and will assign your case a priority level based on the Canadian Triage and Acuity Scale.

After you are assessed, the triage nurse might suggest that you go to a more appropriate resource to have your health problem or psychosocial problem seen to.

If you do have to wait in the emergency room, wait times can vary. The order of priority in which people are seen depends on the number of people and the seriousness of their condition and your condition. Furthermore, expected wait times are unpredictable, depending on the possible arrival of patients requiring immediate care.

If in doubt, contact Info-Santé or Info-Social by calling 811. If your life or a family member’s life is in danger and you cannot go to the nearest emergency room, call 9-1-1.

Non-urgent health problems

Emergency rooms should be used only as a last resort for non-urgent problems, such as:

  • Minor allergic reactions
  • Gastro-enteritis (without signs that it is getting worse)
  • Moderate and stable pain
  • Sore throat

A person’s medical history, health condition or use of certain medications may mean that some health problems considered to be non-urgent for most people must be given priority treatment for other people. If in doubt, call 811.

Last update: February 23, 2023


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General notice

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