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What Are the Most Common Pediatric Medical Misdiagnoses?

Pediatric doctor and child

Infants and young children cannot explain their symptoms if they are sick making it very difficult to pinpoint what’s wrong. Because of this, we count on doctors to recognize symptoms in children, make an accurate diagnosis, and carry out an effective treatment plan. Unfortunately, this duty of care sometimes goes unfulfilled. In fact, medical misdiagnosis is among the most common forms of malpractice among pediatricians and other doctors providing care for infants and children. A pediatric misdiagnosis causes delays in administering the proper course of treatment, which is a mistake that can prove fatal. It’s important to be aware of some of the most common pediatric medical misdiagnoses to prevent such a terrible occurrence from happening to your own child.


Pneumonia is a serious infection that causes inflammation in one or both lungs. Children with pneumonia can develop fever, chills, difficulty breathing, nausea, and other relative symptoms. The child’s doctor should listen to their lungs with a stethoscope and order additional tests if abnormal sounds are detected. Pneumonia can be particularly deadly in infants and young children and can easily be misdiagnosed if the doctor fails to take these precautions.


Meningitis involves the infection of the meninges, which is the membrane that covers the brain and spinal cord. Unfortunately, meningitis is often misdiagnosed as the flu. This error can cause children to suffer complicated health problems or wrongful death. Meningitis can cause lethargy, vomiting, rash, and seizures, among other relative symptoms. In older children, it can be identifiable by a stiff neck, fever, confusion, and headache. To properly diagnose meningitis, a doctor should perform blood tests and, in some cases, a spinal tap. A case may involve medical malpractice if these tests are not performed despite the presence of meningitis symptoms.


Inflammation of the appendix, which is known as appendicitis, causes sudden pain around the right side of the abdomen. The standard treatment for appendicitis is the surgical removal of the appendix. In some cases, however, appendicitis isn’t diagnosed quickly enough. Doctors may sometimes misdiagnose this painful condition as being a stomachache or viral infection. An untreated, ruptured appendix can spread infections throughout the abdomen, resulting in life-threatening consequences.

In addition to these three illnesses, there are many symptoms that may be associated with diseases and/or infections that often lead to medical misdiagnoses in pediatrics:

  • Stomachache
  • Nausea/ Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Sore Throat
  • Breathing problems
  • Skin Rashes
  • Drowsiness
  • Muscle or joint aches

It is the doctor’s responsibility to evaluate and correctly interpret your child’s symptoms. Your child’s doctor should always conduct a thorough examination, review your child’s medical history, and run any tests necessary to confirm or rule-out potential diagnoses. Failure to do so can constitute medical negligence.

What matters most is that your child should never have to suffer the consequences of a doctor’s negligent medical care. The Potter Law, LLC team can take the burden of pursuing justice off your shoulders and fight for you while you focus on your family. Contact us today for a free consultation if you think your child has been a victim of medical negligence. Our legal team is available to help throughout the Maryland and Washington, DC area.