12/20/2012 14:13 EST | Updated 02/19/2013 05:12 EST

Packed emergency rooms will worsen over holidays, officials say

Public health officials in Montreal are urging people to treat mild fever or flu-like symptoms at home instead of clogging overcrowded emergency rooms.

Officials say hospitals are already overpopulated, and they warn it will only get worse during the holidays as illnesses spread and fewer staff are on duty.

They say the flu virus arrived early this year, and many people are showing up in emergency rooms with gastro-intestinal illnesses.

Unless your child is less than three-months-old or has had a fever for more than five days, doctors recommend the usual approach: lots of sleep and fluids.

Need for more clinics, doctor says

Dr. Harley Eisman, head of the emergency department at Montreal's Children's Hospital, said people may be in for a six to 12 hour wait.

"If they think that they need to consult a doctor, there are resources that are open in the community," he said.

He said there are family clinics that are open during the holiday season.

At the Clinique Médicale Plateau Mont-Royal, Dr. Pierre Deslande said the centre is there to alleviate pressure on emergency rooms.

He said there is a need for 30 to 40 more clinics in Montreal, and more resources for the ones that already exist.