Is it flu or gastro, and when to use the emergency room?

It’s flu season in Quebec and across the province emergency rooms are filling up. But a case of the flu doesn’t always require a visit the ER. Quebec’s Health Ministry has created a quick-reference guide to help determine your symptoms and decide what treatment to seek for the flu or gastroenteritis.


Caused by the influenza virus, the flu is a respiratory infection that is spread easily. The main symptoms include a sudden fever between 38 °C and 40 °C (100,4 °F and 104 °F), sudden cough, sore throat, muscle or joint pain, extreme fatigue and headache.

Unless you are at risk for complications (children less than 2 years of age, adults 65 and over, pregnant women, persons suffering from a chronic disease should be assessed by a nurse via info-Santé 8-1-1), in most cases you can treat yourself at home for the most common symptoms.

The time to visit the ER is when you have one or more of the following symptoms: difficulty breathing, an intense headache, drowsiness, difficulty staying awake, weakness, confusion, disorientation, seizures, no urination for 12 hours, excessive thirst, Visit an ER if you have baby less than 3 months old with a fever or a feverish child who seem less energetic than usual or who refuses to play or is agitated.

You can help prevent transmission by washing your hands frequently with soap and water, coughing or sneezing into the crook of your elbow or against your upper arm rather than into your hands, and keeping your immediate environment clean.


The “gastro” can be caused by viruses, bacteria or parasites. Symptoms usually last 24 to 72 hours and can include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting and, in some cases, fever. Gastro is contagious when showing symptoms and even a few weeks after symptoms have subsided.

Unless you are at risk for complications, you can treat yourself at home for the general symptoms (abdominal pain or cramps, headache, loss of appetite) which usually last between 24 and 72 hours.

Seek medical assistance if you experience diarrhea or vomiting for over 48 hours with no improvement; have diarrhea with a fever (higher than 38° C or 100.4° F), or diarrhea lasts longer than one week.

Adults or children should visit the ER if they experience bloody or black stool; diarrhea with intense abdominal pain; diarrhea, extreme thirst, no urination in 12 hours; frequent vomiting that does not slow down after 4 to 6 hours; vomiting containing blood or stool (reddish or with the appearance of ground coffee); or if your general health deteriorates. 

Prevent the spread of gastroenteritis by washing your hands often with soap and water or using an antiseptic hand cleaner, regularly disinfect the toilet bowl and any surfaces or objects that may be contaminated by stool or vomit, avoid preparing meals for others and stay at home.

If you have questions about your state of health, call info-Santé at 8-1-1 or contact a health professional.

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A word of thanks from Townshippers’

Just before the holidays, Townshippers’ Association invited the community to celebrate the festive season with us and the five other community organizations that share the Marguerite Knapp Building. We wanted to thank everyone who braved the chilly December weather to join us at the open house and to extend a very special “Thank You” to the local businesses and individuals who donated door prizes won by some of our guests. Thank you Familiprix Extra – Roxane Fournier et Rémi Gosselin, Jean Coutu Lennoxville, Sebby’s Restaurant, Studio Unik Coiffure, Ross Murray and, Jane Loiselle.

Keep an eye out for more opportunities to meet and mingle with Townshippers’!

This weekly column in The Record keeps you in touch with Townshippers’ Association’s activities and news. For other ways to keep in touch, visit our website, follow us on, Twitter @Townshippers or get in touch with our offices in Sherbrooke at 100 – 257 Queen, 819-566-5717, toll-free: 1-866-566-5717, or Lac-Brome at 3-584 Knowlton Rd, 450-242-4421, toll-free: 1-877-242-4421.

Publication: Keeping in Touch column, Sherbrooke Record, Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Photo Credit: Townshippers’ Association

Photo Caption:  Townshippers’ Rooted in the Townships Project Coordinator Jayme Marrotte, Outreach Worker for the Haut-Saint-François English-speaking community Gabrielle Joncas-Brunet, Townshippers’ Health and Social Services Network Agent Michelle Lepitre and Culture Coordinator Emily Prangley Desormeaux at the Marguerite Knapp Building’s annual open house on December 20, 2017.