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Children and misdiagnosis: 3 common examples

On Behalf of | May 16, 2024 | Medical Malpractice |

Failure to provide an accurate diagnosis at the earliest opportunity may cause unnecessary suffering to a patient. This is especially true for children. Misdiagnosis among children is more common than you think, and there are several reasons why. Going to the doctor can be intimidating for both children and parent. They may feel panic upon arrival at the hospital, so they might not always be able to accurately describe how the patient feels.

Common misdiagnosed pediatric medical issues

There are some conditions that are often misdiagnosed among children, including:

  • Asthma, because its symptoms are like that of a common cold or chest infection. A lung function test, which medical professionals typically use for diagnosis, can be challenging to perform on small children.
  • Food allergies, because the delay in the onset of symptoms makes it challenging to pinpoint the specific allergen. Skin prick or blood tests, often used to diagnose the condition, may produce false positive results. Children are also typically scared of needles, which makes this extra challenging for doctors.
  • Viral infections can also be prone to misdiagnosis because, just like asthma, the symptoms present themselves similarly to other respiratory diseases, such as the flu or a cold. There are also no specific diagnostic tests for viral infections, so doctors largely rely on a patient’s symptoms to make a diagnosis. This is when an accurate description of the symptoms comes in very handy – and it may not always be available depending on who is describing them.

When a medical professional does not diagnosis the issue in a timely manner, the symptoms can escalate to a more serious condition.

What doctors and medical practitioners can do

Children may not be able to express how they feel accurately. Sometimes, the most they can do is say that they feel “icky” to describe feeling unwell.

Doctors may need to be extra patient and be creative in getting to the bottom of their young patient’s problem, especially if they are unable to talk. For example, they may gently prod the body part and see how they will react – they may scream and cry if it hurts.

Misdiagnosing a pediatric issue may be common, but it can be avoided. If a misdiagnosis led to a delay in treatment and serious injury to your child, you may be able to hold that medical team accountable through a civil claim. This can lead to compensation to help cover the cost of additional treatment.