St. Catharines, ON – Members, partners, and collaborators of the Niagara Ontario Health Team-Équipe Santé Ontario Niagara (NOHT-ÉSON) issued a joint letter to the community today regarding the ongoing challenges facing our health care system due to the early arrival of influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and continued COVID-19 infections. The current rise in respiratory illnesses has created capacity issues for emergency departments across the region. We are witnessing a higher volume of calls from worried community members to family doctor’s offices and other primary care provider clinics.
“Considering the current health care situation, which we are seeing not only in our neighbourhoods but also across Ontario and Canada, we decided to reach out to Niagara residents to provide some concrete guidance,” said Dr. Darija Vujosevic, Primary Care Clinical Lead for the NOHT-ÉSON. “We’re hoping that through this awareness campaign, we can alleviate some of the legitimate fears, which have been building in our community, considering ongoing shortages of over-the-counter children’s medicines as well as pressures and high volumes of patients gravitating towards our emergency departments.”
People who have trouble accessing over-the-counter medications should call their family doctor or primary care provider for further guidance. If someone does not have a regular provider, they should consult a local pharmacist.
Most mild respiratory illnesses (mild cough, sneezing, runny nose, low-grade fever) can be managed safely at home, especially if they are of a one or two-day duration. The illnesses can be treated symptomatically with over-the-counter medications, rest, drinking plenty of fluids, and staying home when sick. However, in some cases, the emergency department is the best place to receive the appropriate level of care.
“If a child appears very sick, parents should trust their gut feeling and seek medical attention,” added Dr. Vujosevic. “As physicians, we are here and ready to help and provide necessary service.”
If someone experiences any of the following, they should proceed to the closest emergency department or call 9-1-1:
- A serious respiratory illness (severe cough, difficulty catching a breath, dizziness, headaches, high fever, chills, etc.)
- A baby who is younger than three months old and has a fever
- A person who is not eating or drinking and is at risk of dehydration
In addition to primary care offices, walk-in clinics, and emergency departments, Niagara Health has prepared Know Your Options, a resource that outlines when and where to access care. Niagara residents can also seek out urgent online medical care services through UrgentCareOntario.ca. Information on respiratory symptoms and advice is available through Health Connect Ontario’s assessment tool.
Local primary care and numerous partners are preparing to offer the community additional levels of service to combat the recent increase in respiratory illnesses. Further information will be shared with the community shortly.