Doctors suspect vaping behind dozens of lung illnesses

Henrietta Brewer
August 16, 2019

There are new warnings about a possible link between severe lung disease in teenagers and e-cigarettes and vaping.

More than a dozen teens in the Midwest who reported vaping have been hospitalized with lung issues, stumping doctors who are searching for what exactly is sickening them.

And in Illinois, six young people have been hospitalized for severe breathing problems after vaping, and five more are being investigated as of August 9, according to a statement issued last week by the Illinois Department of Public Health. They came in with symptoms including shortness of breath, fever, cough, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, dizziness and chest pain.

Similarly in Wisconsin, Andrea Palm of the state's health department also said that, although health care workers knew the patients had vaped previously, they don't know what type of products were used.

IL reports six similar cases.

But besides the common thread between all these cases being vaping, it's unknown what particular aspects of vaping are causing the problems.

"We are encouraging providers and parents to be on the lookout for vaping as a cause for unexplained breathing problems and lung injury and disease", said Dr. Ruth Lynfield, state epidemiologist and MDH medical director. "Medical attention is essential; respiratory conditions can continue to decline without proper treatment". Officials in New York, California and in have been looking into similar reports, too.

Yesterday, August 13, health officials in Minnesota made a similar announcement, saying that four cases of "severe lung injury" had been identified in teenagers who had used electronic cigarettes and other vaping devices.

But the same is not true for e-cigarette use.

The 2017 Minnesota Youth Tobacco survey found that almost 20 percent of high school students use e-cigarettes and 40 percent have tried them. That's an increase from less than 1 percent in 2011.

A variety of substances in e-liquids could pose risks, according to health experts, but little is known about the short- and long-term health risks posed by e-cigarettes. They reported that young patients suffering from lung illnesses had been hospitalized for more than a week, with some "admitted to the intensive care unit". "Or if asked directly, they may not be comfortable sharing that".

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