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Press Release

Health Officials Urge Residents Not to Use Emergency Rooms For Routine Care During the Holiday

December, 22, 2003

Health officials are urging local residents not to go to emergency rooms during the holiday season unless they are having a medical crisis.

This holiday season the flu has hit hard and emergency rooms are already busier than usual. With Christmas and New Year's falling on Thursday, many health care providers will close or reduce staff the following Friday. Health officials are asking that persons not use emergency rooms for routine problems.

"We understand that when a family member becomes ill, people want immediate medical advice, but the emergency room is not always the best place to go. We recommend that during the holidays, families call their medical provider, follow their directions and make an appointment with their health care provider after the holiday if necessary," said Wendel Brunner, Contra Costa County's Public Health Director.

According to Brunner, persons with the flu should get plenty of rest, drink a lot of liquids, and avoid using alcohol and tobacco. Over-the-counter fever reducers and cough syrup can be taken to alleviate symptoms. Aspirin products should not be given to children or teenagers who have flu-like symptoms - and particularly fever - without first speaking to a doctor first.

"The average wait for emergency room care is at least two hours, and persons are not seen on a first-come-first-served basis. Critical cases are seen first. This includes persons with heart attacks, or injuries from serious accidents or violent crimes, which do increase during the holidays. Flu symptoms may be considered low priority in an emergency room and wait time may increase," said Brunner.

Brunner said people with acute or serious symptoms such as difficulty breathing, chest pain or convulsion should go to the emergency room or call 911 immediately.

Information about the flu and flu vaccine is available online on the Contra Costa Health Services web site,

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Press Contact
  • Francie Wise
  • 925-313-6740