CHICAGO — Several children’s hospitals and public health leaders are urging families to avoid emergency rooms if their illnesses or injuries are non-life threatening.

A number of the city and state’s top doctors say they’re seeing a significant increase in ER visits and in cases that are considered non-life threatening are up by 90 percent.

So parents are urged to call their child’s pediatrician versus going straight to the ER. Medical experts say doing doing this will help decrease long waits in the emergency room, ensuring children who are the sickest receive priority care.

Doctors attribute an increase in childhood ER visits to a surge in RSV (Respiratory syncytial virus), a common childhood virus that typically peaks in the winter.

RSV and COVID-19 share symptoms like fever, cough and runny nose.

However, symptoms exclusive to Covid include body aches, headaches, loss of taste or smell and an upset stomach.

Top health officials say a trip to the ER may not be necessary if your child is experiencing some of these symptoms.

However, if your child’s illness or injury is severe, they say err on the side of caution by heading to the ER.

“If you are not sure if your child is seriously ill we want you to err on the side of seeking that emergency care, but if you’re looking for a Covid test or looking for reassurance if you’re able to connect with your primary care provider or outpatient practice first that is where we want you to start,” said Dr. Allison Arwady, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner.

Severe cases include newborns with fevers, chest pain, trouble breathing, fainting or coughing up blood. Also, asthma attacks, dehydration, allergic reactions, large wounds, fractures, serious burns and sudden neurologic changes are also considered severe cases.

Health experts continue to express getting vaccinated against Covid and also stress the importance of getting the flu shot as well.

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