What to Expect at the Hospital and Emergency Department During Sick Season

Please note that because we are a healthcare facility, all eligible visitors, even if fully vaccinated, need to wear a mask at all times in all of our facilities and locations. Thank you for partnering with us to keep our patients, families and staff safe.

If you have mild symptoms or need a COVID-19 test, please use community resources instead of coming to the Emergency Room. That helps us to be able to care for serious medical emergencies. Find testing resources.

Our priority at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) is to provide high quality, safe and effective care to all our patients and families. 

If you are looking for information related to outpatient visits at one of our Care Network locations (primary, specialty or urgent care), read more here.

High volumes & wait times

Like many hospitals across the country, we are experiencing an extremely high demand for emergency services due to a surge of seasonal illnesses like RSV and other respiratory viruses, the flu, COVID-19, and more. This has resulted in longer-than-normal wait times in our Emergency Departments (EDs).

We know that long wait times can be frustrating. We assure you that we are experienced in maintaining our high standard of care in this environment and are prepared to provide care for all patients who need us.

Right care, right place

We know it's challenging when your child isn’t feeling well. Fortunately, most mild illnesses can be safely managed at home, which will help minimize your child’s exposure to illness if they really don’t need to be seen in the ED. Getting patients directed to the right level of care from the start of their illness also helps reduce wait times for everyone so that we can focus on the most serious medical emergencies that need emergency care.

If you’re unsure whether your child’s symptoms can be managed at home or require a trip to the emergency room, try our symptom checker as a starting point. This can help determine what type of medical care your child may need, if any, or if their symptoms can be managed at home.

We have created this library of information and resources to help you prevent common bugs and treat your child's illness at home when it is appropriate to do so. Save this page to return to when you need it!

Remember, you are always the best judge of your child's needs. Do not hesitate to go to an Emergency Room if you think your child is experiencing an emergency.

What to expect in our Emergency Department right now

If a visit to one of our hospitals or Emergency Departments is necessary during this time period, please know that you may experience a long wait. We understand how frustrating this can be, and we apologize for any inconvenience and additional stress it may cause. 

We recommend you bring any food, drinks, toys or entertainment necessary to make your wait as comfortable as possible, and please follow our current visitor guidelines.

Get more details about what to expect when you arrive and while you wait:

Please note: In the Emergency Room, the sickest kids are seen first

To make sure the sickest children or those with the most serious injuries have fast access to safe, effective care, patients may not be seen in the order they arrive.

Some patients may be sicker than they look. As a result, they may be seen before your child, even if they have not waited as long.

Due to the unpredictable nature of emergency medicine, we are not able to provide estimated wait times for patients. Please let us know if your child’s condition changes.

Visitor guidelines

Who can visit

We understand how important the presence of families and visitors are to the health and well-being of our patients and families. We continually review and adjust our visitation policies. At this time, in continued efforts to keep our patients, families and staff safe from COVID-19 and other respiratory viral infections, our limited visitor policy is in place. 

Please review these guidelines carefully before coming to one of our hospitals or Emergency Departments. 

Respecting each other

CHOP is a place of healing and compassion. As we navigate this challenging time together, we expect our patients, families and staff to act in a respectful manner — allowing everyone to be part of the conversation.

Inappropriate language, discriminatory slurs, threats and/or aggressive behavior will not be tolerated.

Your child’s health and safety are our top priority, along with the safety of our staff and of everyone in our facilities. We appreciate your patience and thank you for trusting us with your child’s care.

Ensuring everyone’s safety: Important reminders for while you’re here

Masks to protect our vulnerable patients

Because we have many patients who are at higher risk for disease, we ask all parents/caregivers and visitors, even if they are fully vaccinated, to wear well-fitted masks over their mouths and noses while they are at any CHOP location, including in your child’s room when a staff member is present. This includes patients over 2 years old. Please let us know if your child has a hard time wearing a mask.

Caregivers do not need to wear their mask while they sleep or eat. We will supply non-medical masks or you can bring one from home. Thank you for partnering with us.

See below for guidance on effective mask wearing. 

Effective Masks and Masking: Cloth Masks and Medical Masks. Masks must cover both nose and mouth.
 
Ineffective Masks and Masking: Bandanas, Neck Gators, Valved Masks. Wearing mask with nose, or both nose and mouth exposed is also ineffective.
 

Hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette

Please help us prevent the spread of germs by practicing good hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette, including frequent handwashing, covering coughs and cleaning surfaces such as phones.

Staff precautions

The most important precaution we take is hand hygiene. You will see this at all times during your interactions with staff. All staff are also required to wear masks while at work as part of our universal masking policy.

Other safety recommendations include staying home when ill. CHOP’s employee sick policy requires that any ill staff member must stay home from work if they are feeling sick. Staff are required to self-monitor for symptoms and report any illness that may develop while at work.

If you are anxious or frightened to bring your child to the hospital

We understand that you may be anxious about coming into the hospital. Emotional reactions or feelings of anxiety are natural. Please continue to ask us questions or tell us about your concerns. If you find you need more support/help please contact one of the following resources:

  • Your primary care provider
  • Philadelphia 24-Hour Mental Health Delegate Line: 215-685-6440
  • Emotional PA Department of Health (DOH) statewide hotline 1-877-PA-HEALTH

If you're looking for information related to outpatient visits at one of our Care Network locations (primary, specialty or urgent care), read more here.

Updated: Nov. 17, 2022 

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