Pennsylvania teen develops lung problems after only 3 weeks of vaping
A UPMC physician is warning about the potential hazards of vaping after a new case shed light on the largely unregulated cigarette alternative.
An 18-year-old Pennsylvania woman developed “wet lung,” or hypersensitivity pneumonitis, after first starting to vape only three weeks earlier, a study published this month in the medical journal Pediatrics said.
The restaurant hostess had chest pains and difficulty breathing and was admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
Her symptoms escalated to the point of respiratory failure, and she was unable to get enough oxygen into her blood from her lungs and required a respirator to breathe until her lungs recovered, said Dr. Daniel Weiner, medical director of the pulmonary function laboratory at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.
Weiner treated the patient and co-authored the study, which details the first reported case of acute respiratory distress syndrome from e-cigarette use in teens.
The patient also required tubes to be inserted on both sides of her chest to drain fluid from her lungs, according to the report.
She was treated with antibiotics and recovered after spending five days on the respirator.
“People should consider this carefully before inhaling anything other than air or prescribed medications,” Weiner said.
E-cigarettes, usually powered by batteries and made to look like traditional cigarettes, heat a nicotine solution that produces an aerosol for users to inhale. Though they are considered safer than cigarettes, they are not harmless, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. E-cigarettes can contain nicotine, heavy metals and flavoring such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to lung disease. They are sold at convenience stores and groceries.
As the popularity of vaping continues to climb, medical experts predict new risks will emerge.
A report in Science News for Students showed vapors inhaled from e-cigarettes could lead to gum disease, slower cell repair and impaired immunity.
“Smoker’s cough” and bloody sores have begun showing up in teen vapers, the report said.
The CDC reports that 38 percent of high schoolers have tried vaping as well as 13 percent of middle schoolers.
A Harvard study confirmed lung-destroying chemicals found in vape liquids and a prevalence of diacetyl.
Pediatricians should be prompted to talk with patients about the potential risks of vaping, Weiner said.
“I think this case highlights for us that the lung can be very sensitive to inhaled irritants, and sometimes reactions to inhaled substances can be life-threatening,” Weiner said.