Commonly Misdiagnosed Medical Conditions in Children

Commonly Misdiagnosed Medical Conditions in Children

Pediatric doctors are heroes, treating children for illnesses every day but they are not immune to misdiagnosis or missed diagnosis; problems that also affect thousands of adult patients each year. When it comes to diagnosing infants and young toddlers, the inability to communicate symptoms can add to the challenge. It takes a skilled physician to identify the source of suffering using analytical skills and differential diagnosis. In some cases, a doctor misinterprets symptoms or fails to order appropriate tests to determine the illness behind the symptoms.

As parents, we want to protect our children from harm and when they are really sick, we depend on doctors to help us make them better. Unfortunately, sometimes doctors make grievous errors in the diagnosis process that end up causing more pain and suffering. When illness or disease is misdiagnosed, it can lead to irreparable harm. If you’re a parent, it’s a good idea to be aware of the most commonly misdiagnosed medical conditions in children. If a diagnosis isn’t making sense to you, it’s always a good idea to get a second opinion.

Harm caused by medical misdiagnosis

Children can suffer greatly from medical misdiagnosis, harming them in many ways, including:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Worsening illness from lack of or improper treatment
  • Mental health challenges
  • Cognitive and physical development issues
  • Neurological issues

Commonly Misdiagnosed Medical Conditions in Children

According to the American Association of Pediatrics’ publication 1,  the following illnesses are the most commonly misdiagnosed medical conditions in children:

Viral illness

It is somewhat common for pediatricians to misdiagnose a viral illness for a bacterial infection, thus prescribing an unnecessary course of antibiotics. While antibiotics are an important tool for treating bacterial infections, they are not useful for viral illnesses and they can lead to temporary or long-lasting side effects such as stomach pains, allergic reaction, rashes, and diarrhea.


Unfortunately, there isn’t a solid list of classic symptoms for appendicitis, which can make diagnosis a challenge. Even the most commonly known symptoms of abdominal pain or tenderness don’t always present. When appendicitis is misdiagnosed, it is most often confused with an upper respiratory infection. The problem is that appendicitis left untreated can lead to a burst appendix. Jake Tapper recently shared his experience with his daughter’s appendicitis misdiagnosis.

Medication side effects/prescription drug errors

When our child requires prescription medication, we depend on the doctor to prescribe an appropriate medication for the illness. In addition, any known allergies, contraindicating drugs, and the child’s body weight must all be considered drugs when selecting the drug and the appropriate dosage. When a drug has serious side effects not discussed with the parent or a prescription drug error is made that causes permanent, debilitating problems, a medical malpractice suit may be appropriate.

Psychiatric disorders

In some cases, a medical misdiagnosis happens because the physician overlooked symptoms of psychiatric disorders. In other cases, children are too hastily diagnosed with trending syndromes such as ADHD and then prescribed medications with side effects that the child doesn’t need. Either way, a child can be harmed.

What causes medical misdiagnosis in children?

In some cases, the pediatrician provides negligent care but there are also systemic problems that contribute to medical errors:

  • Poor record-keeping
  • Faulty medical equipment
  • Poor communication among specialists
  • Failure to order appropriate tests
  • Failure to refer to a specialist for diagnosis

How do I know if my child has a misdiagnosis malpractice case?

A medical malpractice lawyer will carefully analyze the cause of the misdiagnosis as well as the effect it had on the child. A medical malpractice lawsuit for misdiagnosis may be appropriate if actual damages such as pain and suffering, medical bills, and disability were suffered as a result of the failure to diagnose. In a misdiagnosis case, negligent care may look like:

  1. A doctor’s failure to consider or make a diagnosis that another, similarly skilled medical professional would have included in a differential diagnosis under similar circumstances.
  2. A doctor identifying the correct diagnosis when differentiating but failing to order appropriate tests or to investigate the diagnosis further.

If your child was harmed by a medical misdiagnosis, you have a right to pursue full and fair compensation for their injuries on their behalf. In addition, parents have a right to pursue compensation for medical bills and other losses that they will incur as a result of their child’s injuries. In Washington State, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims is generally three years. Washington State also allows a child to file a claim on their own for up to three years past their 18th birthday.

The Seattle Personal Injury Lawyers You Want on Your Side

The personal injury attorneys at Tinker Law Firm have been winning birth injury, medical malpractice, and personal injury cases for individuals and their loved ones in Seattle and across Washington State since 1974. We seek justice for injury victims who have been harmed by preventable medical errors, and the negligent or abusive actions of another. Our clients pay no fees or expenses to file a personal injury claim; our firm advances out-of-pocket expenses and is only reimbursed when we recover a settlement on your behalf. Do not delay; personal injury claims in Washington State have a statute of limitations, which means they must be filed within a certain time from the date of the injury.

Call us now at 206-842-1000 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation with one of our skilled and experienced injury attorneys.