CHEO is urging parents to use other healthcare options whenever possible as their emergency department is the busiest it's ever been.

The hospital said in a news release it treated 256 children in a 24-hour period on Wednesday, with patient numbers up 15 per cent since last year and wait times of six to eight hours. 

If your child has "less-urgent" symptoms, CHEO said it's asking parents to visit their child's doctor or a community health clinic to free up their resources.

"Families need to make these decisions wisely," said Dr. Ken Farion, CHEO's emergency medical director. "Whether they need to come to the emergency department today to seek care, versus waiting to see their family physician the next day or going to a walk-in clinic at other hours"  

The release said February and March are normally the busiest in CHEO's emergency room because of viruses and respiratory illnesses.

However, even after getting bonuses last year for helping 90 per cent of patients within target wait times, the hospital still said it can't keep up.

"We were very proud of what we accomplished as a team, but even after those improvements the current volumes are simply too high," Dr Farion said. "It is clear that the biggest part of this increase is patients with less-urgent cases that could be seen elsewhere."

Parents said they don't want to take chances with their child's health.

"You can't predict these things, that's why it's called an emergency room," said Meg Irving.

"Everything can kind of seem serious if they're turning red," said Angela Mooney. "We have a family doctor, so we do have a service we can call 24 hours a day if we have any questions."

CHEO recommends you bring your child to the emergency room if they're vomiting many times a day, has severe pain, is experiencing shortness or breath or develops a rash that doesn't turn white when you push on it, amongst other symptoms.

Officials said they hope the Ontario government's plan to expand the numbers of patients with access to after-hours or same-day medical appointments will help in the long-term.

You can find more information on CHEO's website.

With a report from CTV Ottawa's Stefan Keyes