AUSTIN (KXAN) — Hospitals in Austin say they’re seeing more kids in their emergency rooms with respiratory illnesses and flu. It now has the attention of Travis County Judge Andy Brown, who visited Dell Children’s Hospital this week.

“They took me through the emergency room intake and some other parts of the hospital, and it’s clear that there are a lot of kids going to the emergency room, going to Dell Children’s right now,” Brown said.

The chief medical officer at Dell Children’s says with the holidays right around the corner, the hospital doesn’t expect the problem to get better before it gets worse. They’re asking parents with non-emergency cases to take their kids to a pediatrician or urgent care instead of the ER, if possible.

“Last year in the ER, I was seeing a patient volume [of] 150 [patients] in 24 hours, now I’m seeing 320, so it’s like double,” said Dr. Meena Iyer, chief medical officer at Dell Children’s.

An Austin mom says sometimes those options aren’t available though. She had to bring her two-year-old daughter to the emergency room last week for the flu. She said while it was the middle of the night, she didn’t have to wait very long for care there.

“We’ve had a couple of incidents, including one with respiratory issues last week, where we tried to check in with the pediatrician, but they’re very busy or full and don’t have appointments available for at least a week at a time,” Jennifer said.

She said even though parents like her don’t want to be going to the emergency room, where they have to pay significantly more money for the same care, her pediatrician is often unavailable because of the high demand they’re seeing in providing care, she explained.

“People aren’t just trying to avoid the pediatrician because we don’t have insurance. We’re trying to get the care we need for sick children who need immediate care. And there’s not enough pediatric care,” she said, following up with: “We’re just trying to help our kids live happy healthy lives.”

“We just need to be careful that we don’t overload one of our best resources here,” Brown said. Travis County and Austin Public Health is hosting a flu vaccine clinic on Saturday from 9 a.m.-noon at Del Valle High School. The event is free and open to the public.

Judge Brown is running for re-election this November. We also reached out to his opponent, Rupal Chaudhari who said the following:

“As a working mother with two kids, avoiding the flu is on my mind quite often! I fully support efforts to urge Travis County residents to remember the basics, such as washing hands and staying home when there are symptoms. The little things we do make a big difference for our health care workers who are once again overwhelmed.”

Urgent care or the emergency room?

Dell Children’s posted on their Twitter earlier this month with some general guidelines for whether urgent care or the emergency room is the best place to go.

The following can be treated by urgent care, Dell Children’s said:

  • Cold, flu or allergies
  • Strains and sprains
  • Severe sore throat
  • Minor cuts or burns
  • Eye or ear infections
  • Broken bones (wrist, hand, ankle, foot)

Dell Children’s recommend taking your child to the emergency room for the following:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Open fractures
  • Severe bleeding or burns
  • Extremely high fever
  • Loss of vision

They added that in an emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.