Having sick children is difficult — it's often hard to know whether to take them to the doctor or wait it out because it's likely viral.
However, sometimes the consequences of just "waiting it out" can be deadly. One family is mourning the loss of their 12-year-old daughter after a misdiagnosis.
When Alyssa Alcaraz came home from school one day, she was throwing up, recalls her sister Mariah. She thought it was food poisoning.
Her family took her to the doctor where she was diagnosed with the flu. She stayed home from school, but after a few days, Alyssa was still not getting better. The took Alyssa back to urgent care where the physician noticed her low oxygen levels.
Alyssa was immediately rushed via ambulance to the local hospital.
"Within hours, Alyssa's organs started shutting down and her family says she coded six times. By 2:50 Sunday afternoon the vibrant girl ... died," stated a local news agency. Her death certificate noted she went into cardiac arrest and suffered a septic shock from a strep blood infection — which no one knew she had.
For flu in children, WebMD notes symptoms include a fever up to 104° F, chills and shakes, dry cough, sore throat, vomiting and extreme fatigue. Food poisoning shares similar symptoms like nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting.
Strep throat also shares a couple of these symptoms. This illness is typically noted by painful swallowing, swollen glands, headache, vomiting, fever, body aches and red and white patches on the throat. Step throat can trigger sepsis, an "often deadly response to infection" and catching it early is vital. Sepsis can also develop from pneumonia, the flu, or urinary tract infections. One-third of those who develop sepsis die, and those who survive carry scars such as PTSD, fatigue, organ dysfunction, chronic pain or amputations.
It can be difficult to navigate illnesses and a diagnosis, especially when illnesses share symptoms. If you question a diagnosis from yourself or your doctor, you can ask for more tests (for instance, test for the flu and strep). Remember: even the flu can cause you to develop a secondary bacterial infection that needs to be treated with antibiotics.
We can't always avoid getting sick, but we can work to prevent it. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables and drink lots of water. Make sure you get adequate sleep and avoid stress. Consuming sugar and caffeine can weaken your immune system, so try to avoid those during the times of year we're more likely to get sick. Additionally, always wash your hands before eating or after being in public places and touching things that have been touched by others (things like grocery carts and door handles.) And remember, you can always question a diagnosis. Feel free to get a second opinion, trust your gut and push for more intensive tests. Sometimes the flu isn't just the flu.