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Diagnosis: How Did My Doctor Come Up With That?

Last updated: August 2021

Have you ever been to a doctor, received a diagnosis, and think to yourself "Hmm, that’s not right?" Doctors are like detectives - they have to gather clues and make an educated guess.

When Daughter was little, she was in the hospital four times for asthma, and two times for a stomach bug. Daughter was my third child, so by then, I knew basic medical care for my kids. But there comes a point when I know my child needs more medical help than I can give.

She was battling a stomach bug, and had been vomiting all day. She couldn’t keep anything down. And I mean ANYTHING! I tried my go-to re-hydrating drink. No luck. I tried ice chips. She could keep exactly one ice chip down, but if she had more than one, she threw up.

Correct diagnosis?

I strapped her in the car seat and headed to the pediatrician’s office. He examined her and said she was fine. I told him she wasn’t - she had been vomiting for hours and had gone too long without a wet diaper.

He said to keep trying ice chips and sent me on my way. Argh! When I took her home, she kept vomiting, and "just didn't seem right." So, I put her back in her car seat and drove to the ER this time.

The ER doctor admitted her to the hospital and started an IV to re-hydrate her. The pediatrician was notified that Daughter was admitted, so he called the hospital room. He wanted to know what he had missed. I wanted to know what clue he missed too!

How did you come up with that?

I told him I knew something was wrong because she couldn't keep anything down and hadn't had enough wet diapers. So I knew she was dehydrated. He said, "When I examined her, her mouth was wet."


I asked him if that was how he made the diagnosis? Her mouth was wet? He said yes. I told him her mouth was wet because she vomited in the van on the drive to his office! It was his turn to say, "Ohhhhh."

Daughter was in the hospital for 4 days, and the doctors couldn’t figure out what was causing the vomiting. So glad she was on an IV to get re-hydrated.

What I learned

After that, when the pediatrician would diagnose one of my kids with bronchitis, RSV, pneumonia, or the stomach flu, I would ask "What are you basing that on?"

Don't get the wrong idea - I don't think I know more than the doctor. But maybe we are both looking at different clues. I wanted to make sure we were on the same page. Moms always seem to know when "something doesn't seem right" with one of our kids.

I remember seeing a different pediatrician when Daughter’s asthma didn’t seem right. We were giving breathing treatments with the nebulizer, and she was already on a daily controller inhaler. But she was still struggling with her breathing.

The pediatrician started Daughter on an oral steroid and said "Well if you are still worried about her tomorrow, you can bring her back in." I was surprised to hear myself say "She won’t be here tomorrow, she’ll be admitted tonight."

Sure enough - she continued to get worse. I took her to the ER later that night and they admitted her to the hospital.

Do you agree with the diagnosis?

I know pediatricians are experts on childhood diseases and injuries, but they're not an expert on my child. Moms of kids with chronic diseases like asthma, diabetes, etc, are on high alert because we know our kid's numbers and what's normal for them.

If you aren’t sold on the diagnosis, ask your doctor what he based that on. You might be surprised! And you might be able to have a discussion about WHY they came up with that diagnosis, and share your perspective.

Has anyone else had an experience being misdiagnosed?

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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