Failure to Follow the Standard of Care can Make Allergists Subject to Medical Malpractice Claims in New Jersey
An allergist, sometimes called an immunologist, is a medical specialist expert in allergies, immunological problems, and asthma. To become an allergy specialist, doctors must spend many years educating themselves and training in the field. After medical school, they train for three more years in the field of pediatrics or internal medicine and then take the American Board of Internal Medicine exam or the American Board of Pediatrics exam. Then, they fellowship for two years in specialty programs for allergists and immunologists, after which they take the American Board of Allergy and Immunology exam to become a certified allergist/immunologist, earning the highest title in the field.
One would assume with such extensive training and education that an allergist would not err when examining, testing, diagnosing, or treating someone who seeks out their care. However, allergists and immunologists can and do make gross errors in judgment in some cases, the results of which can be devastating for the patient affected by their negligence.
Many unsuspecting patients have been the victims of medical malpractice in New Jersey, although it is the role and responsibility of the medical practitioner to provide information and treatment to their patients. Our firm has advised and represented hundreds of families in New Jersey, supporting them in resolving their medical malpractice lawsuits in order to move into healing in the most supported and expedited way. Our medical malpractice lawyers at Fronzuto Law Group research the specifics of your case and consult with multiple experts to develop a strong case in your favor. We offer a free consultation and review of your potential claim free of charge in order to determine the likely financial recovery to which you may be entitled. Contact a member of our team at (973)-435-4551 or complete our online form today to learn how we can support you in recovering during this difficult time.
Frequent Triggers that Cause Allergies
Allergies are overreactions of the body’s defense mechanisms that fight off invaders, like bacteria or viruses. When the body mistakes ordinary environmental irritants, like dust or pollen, for viruses and bacteria, the immune system tries to get rid of the foreign substances by releasing chemicals into the body. And yet, dust and pollen are not the only allergens or triggers. Other unsuspected items, such as household cleaners, insects, pets, foods, mold, bee stings, or medications, also cause allergic reactions, some life-threatening.
Reasons and Risk Factors for Developing Allergies
People of all ages develop allergies, even if they never had them as children. It is not uncommon for children, who are more susceptible to allergies, to outgrow them and for adults who never had them as children to develop them in later life. The causes of allergies are largely unknown, but doctors believe they may be inherited. Other risk factors include smoking, hormones, stress, pollution, and perfume.
Signals that may Indicate Allergic Reactions in Patients
An allergist, who may see a patient complaining of shortness of breath or wheezing, tests the patient for environmental and biological causes of allergies and asthma to help them with their symptoms. Many people suffer persistent cold-like symptoms, such as runny nose, sinus pain, or sore throat, before coming to a doctor only to find out that they do not have a cold, and the generalist sends the person to an allergist. Cold-like symptoms are not the only signs of allergy. An adult or a child may see their doctor for skin rashes, eye irritations, or breathing problems. Allergens are typically fought off at the site of entry, such as the nose, eyes, skin, and mouth.
Conditions and Types of Allergies Diagnosed by Allergists
Changing Weather Conditions
One common complaint among allergy sufferers is the change of the seasons, when the pollen is released from flowers in the spring or mold is prevalent in the wet winter, which causes hay fever. The symptoms appear like a cold, with a runny nose, itchy eyes, congestion, and sneezing. They may come and go with the seasons. Most people downplay the symptoms as hay fever or seasonal allergies until their lives are affected enough to see an allergist who can help patients manage their allergies for better wellbeing.
Asthma as a Form of Allergic Reaction
Another form of allergic reaction appears as asthma, with the sufferer coughing, wheezing, or short of breath, depending on the severity of the condition. Asthma may be mild, moderate, or severe. It is caused by blocked airways due to muscle spasms, excess mucus, or inflamed bronchial tubes. Many asthma sufferers have chronic coughs, wheezing, or tightness in the chest; however, severe forms may land a person in the hospital gasping for air.
Skin Allergies and Conditions
Allergies also appear on the skin in the form of hives or rashes, known as eczema or atopic, and contact dermatitis, such as when a person touches poison ivy, gets stung by an insect, or encounters food, animals, medications, or chemicals that cause allergic reactions. Stress can also be a contributing factor and aggravate allergic conditions. More persistent forms of allergies are triggered by irritants that exist in the home or at work, such as dust mites, mold, or pets.
In the case of a severe allergic reaction, called anaphylaxis, the insect bite, food, or medication that started the reaction may cause life-threatening symptoms, such as shortness of breath, inability to swallow due to a swollen tongue or throat, low blood pressure, vomiting, unconsciousness, hives, diarrhea, or red skin. The onset of symptoms can surprise the allergy victim and endanger the sufferer’s life. Anaphylaxis requires an emergency trip to the hospital or a call to paramedics.
Other Conditions Treated by Allergists
Other types of cases an allergist handles are sinusitis, an inflammation of the sinuses that can turn into a serious infection if left untreated; respiratory tract disorders; immune system deficiencies and syndromes; autoimmune diseases; organ transplantation; and occupational breathing disorders caused by exposure to toxic chemicals and other pollutants. Primary immunodeficiency disease is one type of inherited immune system deficiency that appears symptomatically as chronic infections, pneumonia, skin and organ abscesses, swollen glands, enlarged spleen, or autoimmune disease, with serious cases already present in infancy. Since white blood cells formed in bone marrow that produce antibodies to fight off harmful invaders are often defective, causing immune disorders leading to organ failure, allergists may treat bone marrow transplant patients also.
Allergists’ Process of Diagnosis and Treatment
Allergists most commonly treat typical allergies, which are slow growing throughout life phases or throughout a lifetime. You may start with a persistent cough and gradually experience periodic congestion, or you just get sick frequently. The treatment plans that allergists develop for each patient includes testing to diagnose the specific allergies and allergens causing them. Once located, the allergist educates the patient about how to avoid allergy triggers and prescribes medications that will abate symptoms, whether those are inhalers or allergy shots, or tablets, over a therapeutic course of weeks to years. Most individuals end up in an allergist’s office only when their symptoms interfere with their quality of life.
Allergist Errors and Negligence
Allergists, especially board-certified allergists with their extensive training, are not supposed to make mistakes when diagnosing and treating allergies, asthma, and immunological disorders, but they do sometimes miss a diagnosis or choose the wrong medication for a patient. When they do make mistakes, their errors are measured against the standard of medical practice expected of a similarly situated board certified or specialist in their field. Since most allergists are private practitioners who receive their patients through referrals from primary care physicians, they are less exposed to malpractice actions than some other doctors, such as emergency room physicians who see numerous patients with various injuries, diseases, and disorders that require split-second decision making and care. However, this does not make allergists immune to medical malpractice lawsuits. Allergists do make mistakes, and when complications result from these errors, they may be held liable by the victims harmed.
Most Common Types of Allergist Malpractice Actions
Across the board, failure to diagnose or misdiagnosis is one of the top reasons for malpractice. It is easy to imagine that failing to diagnose a deadly peanut allergy in a child can lead to tragic results when that child goes into anaphylactic shock after eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Peanut allergies may build up after repeated exposure, so what may have started out as a rash one day that prompts you to take your child to the doctor, who refers you to an allergist. Then tragedy strikes if your child suffers an oxygen-depriving episode after the allergist failed to diagnose the peanut allergy. Likewise, if the allergist did diagnose the peanut allergy but failed to educate you about avoiding peanuts and keeping an epinephrine injector for emergency exposures, then they may also have been negligent.
Medication errors are also among the top reasons for medical malpractice actions against allergists and immunologists. Allergists may prescribe medications that harm the patient if they are allergic to the medication, are prescribed the incorrect dose, or given the incorrect instructions on how to administer the medication. Such failures may lead to anaphylactic shock or heart failure when inhalers with albuterol cause heart palpitations in a patient with heart disease. Albuterol is commonly prescribed for asthma to open bronchial passageways. If an allergist prescribes albuterol to an at-risk patient for heart attacks without consulting with the patient’s cardiologist or having the patient checked by a cardiologist, they may be liable for malpractice if the patient is injured by the prescribed medication.
Other possible malpractice includes failing to treat a sinus infection with antibiotics when sinusitis is misdiagnosed as something else. Untreated sinusitis can lead to bone infections, meningitis, or brain abscesses.
Contact Our New Jersey Allergist Malpractice Lawyers to Review Your Claim
Like any other doctor, specialists make mistakes, despite their additional education and training. If you or someone you know has suffered needlessly from an allergist’s injurious error, contact Fronzuto Law Group to discuss your case with our dedicated New Jersey medical malpractice lawyers. We can counsel you about the legal process for bringing your claim before a judge and jury, or settling your case before trial to obtain compensation. Get your questions answered by a legal professional experienced with allergist malpractice cases and seeking maximum compensation for injured clients throughout New Jersey. Contact us online or call us at (973)-435-4551 to schedule your complimentary consultation and no-cost case review.