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Wheezing in Children May Mean a Bigger Problem that Asthma

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Wheezing is highly prevalent among children. While many children will experience wheezing on at least one occasion, this belies the seriousness of this medical situation. Asthma is the most common condition associated with recurrent episodes of wheezing; however, wheezing can be a sign of another, perhaps more grave problem in infants and children. Doctors must be aware of this possibility and take steps to investigate the underlying cause of wheezing in their pediatric patients before rushing to a conclusion, as failure to diagnose and treat another condition causing wheezing can lead to severe complications and even cardiac events.

If your child suffered complications due to a healthcare provider’s failure to identify the cause of breathing problems or negligent treatment of wheezing, you should seek knowledgeable legal counsel for a better understanding of your rights. Our team of experienced New Jersey pediatric malpractice lawyers can evaluate your child’s unique case to identify possible grounds for a lawsuit and help you pursue compensation for their injuries. Contact us today at 866-708-8617 to speak with an attorney free of charge or request a free case evaluation by filling out the form below.

What is Wheezing?

Wheezing occurs when the lungs are not moving air in and out as well as they should be. You can usually observe that someone is wheezing when their normal breathing changes and breath sounds become high-pitched. Wheezing is often described as a whistling sound. It is generally a sign that a person’s airway is narrower than normal. Since there is less room for air to travel into and out of the lungs, the person may take shorter breaths and have to work harder to breathe. Wheezing may be accompanied by a flushed face and a person clutching their throat or chest.

Estimates suggest that wheezing occurs in up 45% to children at least once during the first year of life; 20 percent will experience recurrent wheezing events before age 1. By age 6, almost 50% of children will have some wheezing in their medical history.

Potential Causes of Wheezing in Children & Infants

While wheezing can have many causes, the most common is asthma. Some other possible causes of wheezing include:

  • Bronchitis
  • Pneumonia
  • Respiratory tract infection
  • Allergies or anaphylaxis
  • Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection
  • A foreign body blocking the airway (also known as an obstruction)
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD)
  • Heart failure
  • Lung cancer

Many pediatricians and other doctors may rush to diagnose a child’s wheezing as asthma. However, localized wheezing may indicate a greater problem that can be life-threatening. Typical wheezing can be heard in a wide area throughout the lungs, while localized wheezing occurs in a more isolated area and may indicate an issue with the central airways. According to Erik B. Hysinger, MD, who works in pediatric pulmonary medicine, Department of Pediatrics, “Localized wheezing should alert the general clinician that they are treating something other than asthma.”

Failure to Diagnose the Cause of a Child’s Wheezing

Failing to differentiate the specific type of wheezing that an infant or child is experiencing can lead to misdiagnosis and failure to treat the actual condition, which may be more severe. Doctor Hysinger gave a presentation at the Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference underscoring the need to accurately identify localized wheezing in order to effectively diagnose and treat the actual condition responsible for the symptoms.

It is estimated that over 30% of children are initially misdiagnosed, often resulting in serious complications such as lung inflammation, infection, pneumonia, abscess, and even lung collapse. When a child does not have asthma and there is another condition causing localized wheezing, there may be a problem affecting the large central airway. Chest X-rays can be performed to confirm a diagnosis. The types of conditions that may actually be the cause of wheezing fall into one of the following three categories:

  • Obstructed airway
  • Narrowing of the airway
  • Compression of the airway

All of these serious conditions must be accurately diagnosed and treated in a timely manner to avoid serious health consequences. Failure to do so may give rise to a pediatric malpractice claim.

Speak with an NJ Pediatric Malpractice Attorney about Your Child’s Wheezing Misdiagnosis

If a pediatrician or other doctor misdiagnosed your child’s wheezing, failed to diagnose a breathing problem, or left wheezing untreated and he or she experienced complications, our New Jersey Pediatric Malpractice Attorneys can help. Contact us to discuss the circumstances surrounding your case and find out if you may have grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit. Our legal team represents victims throughout New Jersey, bringing claims against doctors, nurses, hospitals, and other negligent parties who cause harm to children and infants in the context of providing medical care. Call 866-708-8617 for a free consultation and find out how we may be able to assist you.


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