Children seem both indestructible and fragile at the same time. A six-year-old can fall off the jungle gym from a five-foot drop into the sand and dust off and keep playing, maybe after shedding a tear out of surprise or humiliation. An older adult is more susceptible to muscle sprains, back spasms, and whiplash with the same fall. However, kids also get high fevers, painful earaches, stomach aches, and viruses that they pick up from other kids at school or on the playground. They contract lice, pink eye, the flu, and sore throats from being around other children at soccer practice or gymnastics. Sometimes, parents with loaded medicine cabinets take care of the minor issues at home, perhaps calling their doctor’s office or a nursing hotline for advice. In cases involving more alarming symptoms, injuries, or illnesses, parents may need to see the child’s pediatrician or another doctor. Here are some of the most common and potentially dangerous causes for concern when a child is sick or injured, and what can happen when a doctor fails to timely test, diagnose, and treat such conditions.
Common Childhood Symptoms that can Spell Trouble when Undiagnosed
Childhood Fever as a Cause for Concern
When a young child of 2 or 3 years old has a persistent fever of over 102 degrees Fahrenheit, they may need to see a doctor after four days of over-the-counter fever reducers and cool baths that do not reduce the fever. While fever itself may not cause concern initially, it may be a sign of infection or something more serious. Fever, combined with listlessness, respiratory difficulties, or loss of appetite, can be signs of the flu. It could also be the body fighting a virus, bacterial infection, urinary tract infection, or sinus infection. However, it could also be meningitis, a bacterial infection that may cause brain damage. Babies with a persistent fever over 100 degrees and older children over 103 or 104 should see a doctor, who can run tests to see if an infection is causing the fever or something more serious. A diligent pediatrician does not assume that a fever and stuffy nose is just a normal childhood sickness without a physical examination, taking vitals, and running blood and urine tests to eliminate common infection causes. Even still, a lingering fever without confirmation of its origins may require further tests, like a spinal tap to check the spinal fluid for meningitis.
Respiratory Problems and Coughing among Children
Coughing or respiratory problems are other common childhood occurrences that may start innocently but potentially become serious if not timely treated. Kids get colds and cases of flu. Again, their parents may treat symptoms with over-the-counter medications to keep the child comfortable. Still, when a cough persists for three weeks or other symptoms, like wheezing or chest pain, occur, a doctor visit is undoubtedly warranted. Breathing problems and coughing can be allergy-related or signs of an infection, among other possibilities. A doctor examining a child with these symptoms listens to the child’s lungs to see if they are clear and takes blood and sputum tests if the cough brings up mucus. The doctor may also run chest x-rays, and CT scans to check for bronchitis, pneumonia, and infections. Untreated bronchitis can turn into pneumonia, which can be debilitating, even life-threatening. A pediatrician may also refer the patient to an allergist if tests show no other apparent causes. Sending a child home with antibiotics or cough medication without running the appropriate tests may lead to more severe conditions, like pneumonia or esophageal tears from coughing.
Child with a Stomach Ache: Normal or Not?
Another common condition for babies and children is a stomach ache, sometimes due to stress, sometimes to eating too many sweets, or other times due to food allergies or viruses. A stomach ache alone can be harmless, or it could be a sign of more severe conditions. A stomach ache can, in fact, be appendicitis if the pain is on the right side of the abdomen. If the pain is in the kidney area, it could be a urinary tract or kidney infection, or even kidney stones. Stomach aches with fever and coughs may be signs of pneumonia, while stomach aches with bloating and vomiting may be due to constipation, intestinal blockages, inflammatory bowel disease, or allergies. All of these conditions may require different tests to diagnose and treat the stomach ache cause, especially for babies or young pre-verbal children who cannot describe what hurts and where.
A thorough battery of tests, such as blood, urine, and stool analyses, may be warranted to find infections or intestinal disorders. X-rays, CT scans, ultrasounds, and endoscopy may check for appendicitis and colon or small intestine blockages. It is essential to find the cause of stomach aches and vomiting. If they are left too long, a patient can suffer dehydration or an emergency room visit if a doctor does not discover appendicitis or blockages soon enough. A burst appendix can lead to peritonitis, a potentially deadly condition. So, pediatricians who fail to run tests or run the appropriate tests for abdominal aches and pains run the risk of severely injuring a child.
Breakdowns in Testing, Ruling out, and Treating Serious Conditions that may Affect your Child
Stiff necks, sore throats, headaches, bumps, scrapes, bruises, broken bones, sprains, and rashes, children get some or all these ailments at one time or another. The danger for doctors and other medical providers is to shrug off too many symptoms as common childhood sicknesses and accidents. Most parents know when their child’s symptoms are not improving, or their child is in extreme discomfort, often prompting them to seek medical attention for the child from their pediatrician, an urgent care doctor, or even an emergency room physician. Babies especially see medical professionals for common symptoms, such as fever, colds, and coughs, because it is harder to gauge the degree of their discomfort and illness. And yet, doctors who send new parents home with antibiotics for coughs or fevers without running further tests to confirm a diagnosis run the risk of gravely injuring a baby.
Communication breakdowns in pediatric care also lead to serious injuries. Even when doctors do order tests, if they are not communicated to the patient and parents or other physicians treating the patient, vital information can be lost, and the child suffers the consequences. No test results are as good as not having the tests run at all. A baby born with a heart murmur, for example, may tragically die because the cardiologist who diagnosed it did not communicate the information to the treating pediatrician or the parents. In these instances, the physician and other members of the healthcare team may be responsible for the baby’s death and the parents’ pain and suffering. No reports in the patient’s file or verbal communication to the doctor or family may allow a vulnerable child or baby to be sent home without proper care, ultimately leading to severe complications, degenerating conditions, and even their death. Likewise, failing to test, neglecting to make an accurate diagnosis, and failing to treat a child with a serious medical condition may all provide cause for a pediatric malpractice lawsuit.
If your child suffered harm due to lack of testing in NJ, seek help from an experienced attorney.
The consequences of an undiagnosed child may mean tremendous losses for a family, from financial to mental and physical. It is for this reason that a malpractice claim offers parents and families the right to sue for failure to test a child that led to the child’s worsening condition, further injuries, or death. In other words, had the doctor tested, the illness, disease, or condition may have been diagnosed and treated, thus avoiding the results of allowing a condition to go untreated or progressively worse.
If your child’s illness or injury was due to their pediatrician’s or other medical professional’s failure to order tests, properly interpret them, or execute an appropriate treatment plan, it is advisable to speak to a pediatric malpractice attorney. Our skilled team of pediatric malpractice lawyers can answer any questions that you may have regarding your child’s injury and potential for recovering damages. Call 866-708-8617 for a free consultation.