Today host Karl Stefanovic has urged parents to be vigilant after a sudden health scare sent his young daughter to the hospital.
He opened up about the “really scary” ordeal on Friday morning while hosting Channel 9’s Today show, where he became emotional as he detailed how suddenly his one-year-old daughter Harper became seriously ill.
Two days ago, the father of four said his toddler had a “sniffle and a cough” that quickly developed into a temperature. She was laid down to sleep but woke with wheezing and difficult breaths, a racing heart rate and a soaring temperature.
Stefanovic and his wife Jasmine rushed their daughter to the GP, but the toddler’s condition worsened dramatically and she had to be rushed to hospital.
While the breakfast show host praised healthcare staff for their timely and “brilliant job”, he said he knew he was not the only parent to have gone through this “shared experience”.
“There were literally thousands of parents in similar situations,” he said.
“We are lucky it wasn’t more serious, and we were lucky we had good people around her.”
Royal Children’s Hospital paediatrician Margie Danchin agreed it was a “familiar story”.
“After the last two years being so tough with Covid for parents, we’re now seeing just a huge increase in viral respiratory infections for children,” she said.
NSW Australian Medical Association president Michael Bonning said the dramatic increase could be blamed on a lack of exposure to respiratory viruses and the flu.
“We know for infants and toddlers who may not have been exposed to (respiratory viruses and the flu) at all in the last two years, this first exposure can be quite severe,” he said.
“We know that influenza is a serious condition in children under the age of five.”
Children under the age of five are one of the most at-risk age groups for contracting the potentially “life-threatening” flu, according to a recent report.
“They‘re one of our priority groups for immunisation,” Dr Bonning said.
“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.”
Dr Danchin said emergency departments had experienced a spike in sick children, 20 per cent of whom needed to be hospitalised.
Stefanvic admitted he “felt guilty” about not taking Harper straight to the hospital, but Dr Danchin said a GP was the best option for parents who may otherwise have to wait up to eight hours at the “really overwhelmed” emergency department.
She said children with mild symptoms should go to the doctor, but she urged parents to head straight to the hospital if their child had difficulty breathing, blueness around the lips, signs of dehydration and listlessness.
Parents should assess their child’s breathing by looking at the indent at the bottom of the neck and around the ribs to see whether they are breathing faster than normal or struggling to breathe.
Dr Bonning urged parents to seek professional advice early, as a child’s condition can change very quickly.
“Your GP is often a really good person to have that discussion with early at that time when it‘s a fever and a runny nose and you just want to talk to someone and get some advice,” he said.
He said knowing what to look for in terms of triggers and warning signs would help parents be prepared for the illness.
Stefanovic said he hoped sharing his family’s experience would help other families battling similar conditions.
“There’s nothing more mortifying than when one of your kids goes down and goes down quickly when they’re sick,” he said.