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How Doctors Misdiagnose Bacterial and Viral Infections in Children

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Child Infection Misdiagnosis Lawyers in NJ

Any parent who has taken a child to the pediatrician has likely heard, at least once, that a child’s cold symptoms are caused by a viral infection or flu that cannot be treated with antibiotics, and the infection must simply run its course. Usually, this diagnosis comes with instructions to ensure that your child drinks lots of fluids, gets plenty of rest, etc. Unfortunately, doctors can sometimes confuse the symptoms of a viral infection with a bacterial infection and vice versa, potentially leading to the delayed or misdiagnosis of serious conditions that can have negative or even permanent impacts on your child’s health. This article examines the common ways that bacterial infections can be misdiagnosed as viral infections and vice versa. It also explores the potential consequences of these types of misdiagnoses.

If your child’s pediatrician or another doctor missed the signs of a serious infection or diagnosed them with a viral or bacterial infection when in fact, the reverse was the case, these medical mistakes can lead to severe complications. Although your primary concern is undoubtedly your child’s health and well-being, you should be aware of the legal options that may be available to you. Children with serious permanent injuries resulting from misdiagnosed conditions, including viral and bacterial infections, may have justification for legal action. Contact the experienced pediatric malpractice attorneys on our legal team in New Jersey, for more information about your child’s potential eligibility for compensation. You can reach us anytime at 866-708-8617 or fill out an online form to receive a free consultation.

How a Child’s Bacterial Infection may be Misdiagnosed as a Virus

Common viral infections can result in “cold symptoms” like a low fever, a runny nose, a sore throat, and trouble sleeping at night. For instance, influenza (“the flu”) is one of the prevailing viral illnesses in the country, and it can also cause these common symptoms, although children with the flu may also suffer from a low-to-moderate grade fever and body aches. When it comes to mistaken diagnosis, physicians may simply miss the signs of a bacterial infection because these infections can result in symptoms very similar to those of viral infections. Unfortunately, misdiagnosing a bacterial infection as a virus can lead to a delay or failure to prescribe necessary antibiotics or other appropriate medications. It is essential to prescribe the right medicine designed to treat bacterial infections in a timely manner. Otherwise, a child is at risk for disease progression and further complications such as sepsis.

Things can also become complicated when viral infections cause “secondary” bacterial infections. In other words, a child’s primary or first viral infection may weaken the immune system or otherwise pave the way for yet another bacterial infection. Doctors may not realize that two infections are present and thus, may not treat them accordingly. Given that viral infections are often treated with rest and hydration, missing a bacterial infection or misdiagnosing a child with a virus can result in serious condition becoming progressively worse.

Another common potential misdiagnosis involves the disease meningitis. Meningitis is a serious health condition that may be viral or bacterial, with symptoms including headaches, fever, changes in sleep patterns, irritability and agitation, nausea, and rapid breathing, among others. Doctors can sometimes mistakenly associate these symptoms with a cold or flu in a child. This can be incredibly dangerous because, if left untreated, certain types of meningitis can result in serious illness, brain damage, or even death within just a short period of time.

Preventing Pediatric Viral & Bacterial Infection Misdiagnosis

Doctors are working on developing a variety of tests to help determine whether common symptoms are attributable to bacterial or viral illnesses, but these tests are not yet widely available. There are, however, many tests that assist doctors in distinguishing between infections caused by bacteria, versus those involving viruses. For instance, pediatricians, emergency medicine physicians, family medicine doctors, and healthcare providers are advised to evaluate vital signs, eating habits, physical appearance, and inflammatory marketers when diagnosing a child with possible infection. Abnormal vital signs such as a high heart rate, low blood pressure, lack of appetite or poor feeding, and listlessness, are potential signs of a serious bacterial infection.

Another way that doctors can evaluate whether a viral infection may be associated with a secondary bacterial infection, or evaluate whether they may have misdiagnosed a bacterial infection as a virus, involves the duration of the symptoms. If your child exhibits “cold symptoms,” fever, or similar symptoms to those discussed above for around ten days to two weeks, or if they show a high fever, doctors may have cause for concern. When this occurs, it is important to conduct additional testing for ear infections, pneumonia, sinusitis, and other potential bacterial infections like urinary tract infections (UTI’s) or strep. These conditions can worsen if not treated quickly, so a mistaken diagnosis of a viral infection, rather than a bacterial infection, can significantly harm your child’s health.

Consequences of False or Delayed Diagnosis in Children

If a doctor misdiagnoses a bacterial or viral infection, your child may not be provided with the appropriate treatment for their illness in a timely manner. This can cause a worsening of their condition, and, in some cases, even permanent injury. Doctors can also prescribe antibiotics to treat viral infections on which they will have no effect, reducing the effectiveness of antibiotics on your child in the future. Ineffective antiviral medications can also be incorrectly prescribed to treat bacterial infections, delaying effective treatment and allowing symptoms to worsen. None of these results are acceptable and some are preventable.

Can I Sue a Doctor for Misdiagnosing my Child’s Infection in New Jersey?

If you believe a delayed or false infection diagnosis harmed your child, you should consider consulting an experienced pediatric malpractice attorney as soon as you are able. Our knowledgeable team of New Jersey lawyers can examine your child’s case, explain when wrong diagnosis qualifies as medical negligence, and further determine your potential grounds for a lawsuit. Contact us at 866-708-8617 for a confidential case evaluation free of charge.

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