Karl Stefanovic revealed the scary moment his daughter Harper was rushed to hospital earlier this week, just hours after noticing "a small cough and a sniffle".
The Today host experienced what thousands of Aussie parents have been going through in recent months with an influx of respiratory illnesses overcoming kids, including influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
The two-year-old "went downhill quickly", the TV host explained on Today on Friday morning.
"She just had a sniffle and a small cough and within six hours we had her at the GP, then within half an hour she was in an ambulance going to the hospital," he told co-host Allison Langdon.
The dad of four said he and his wife Jasmine did "all the right things", but Harper's condition still worsened rapidly.
After a dose of Nurofen and Panadol, the parents put Harper down to sleep, but she woke up with a temperature of over 40 degrees and a heart rate of over 200, the TV host explained.
"It was only because of a great GP who was able to get on top of it, put her straight in the ambulance and straight to the hospital," he said, where she stayed overnight for observation.
Stefanovic said he was sharing the story on air to warn other parents.
"It's everywhere, this flu at the moment," he said.
Increase in hospital admissions among children
The Today hosts pointed out that thousands of parents are experiencing similar scenarios with their children and it is "causing a lot of families a lot of angst at the moment", Mr Stefanovic said.
Speaking on the show, paediatrician Associate Professor Margie Danchin, from The Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne, said there's been an increase in hospital admissions among children.
"Since March/April, we've seen a big increase in flu A for kids with lots of presentations to the emergency department, and about 20 per cent of children needing admission to hospital," she explained.
"Also in the last month or so, we're also seeing an increase in presentations and admissions for RSV, which is what I suspect your daughter probably had," she told Mr Stefanovic.
RSV is also causing conditions like bronchiolitis and pneumonia and it triggers asthma, often making a child's illness far worse.
"If a child has increased work of breathing or rapid breathing, what we call breathing difficulty or any blueness around the lips, or any signs of dehydration, that should encourage a parent to take their child to the emergency department," Professor Danchin said.
"But If the child has a fever, cough, runny nose, those sorts of more mild respiratory symptoms, then we would encourage them to access community care first."
There are some distinct signs that indicate your child might be struggling to breathe, including breathing at a faster rate and flaring of the nostrils or ribcage.
Less exposure to illnesses is causing more severe symptoms
One reason for the sudden influx of respiratory illnesses is due to children's compromised immune systems.
"Over the last two years, we've had far less exposure to some of these common respiratory viruses, including influenza and RSV, so we know for infants and toddlers who may not have been exposed to RSV at all in the last two years, this first exposure can be quite severe. We're seeing that with influenza as well," NSW AMA President Dr Michael Bonning said.
Dr Bonning said influenza is a serious condition in children under the age of five and stressed the importance of immunisation.
"That is something that we want to encourage all parents to be thinking about, especially while there's a bit of a blitz on for flu vaccination at the moment across the country."
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