12/29/2014 07:56 EST | Updated 02/28/2015 05:59 EST

Flu, gastro cases flood Ste-Justine children's hospital

The head of the ER department at Ste-Justine Hospital is asking parents to keep their children at home if they have mild cold or flu symptoms.

Over the past two weeks, the Montreal-area children’s hospital has been flooded with more than 275 children with colds or the flu per day.

"These are record numbers for this time of year," said the head of the ER department, Dr. Antonio D’Angelo.

The excess of patients has been a challenge for the hospital’s ER staff, who are accustomed to receiving between 200 and 230 people a day.

D’Angelo said the additional patients could cause longer delays for people waiting to see a doctor.

"Our mission is to see the sickest patients, in categories one, two and three," D’Angelo said. "The others will wait several hours."

And that’s on top of exposing parents and children to other sick children in the waiting room.

When to stay home, when to go to ER

D’Angelo said several viruses are already out in full force, including gastroenteritis and the flu.

According to him, a child who has had a fever for fewer than 48 hours and who can still play between spikes in the fever is not a "very sick" child. Rather, he recommends parents to keep their sick children at home and allow them to rest up.

However, he said a child who has had a fever for more than three days, who may have respiratory problems and is unable to remain hydrated should be brought to the emergency.