A hospital in Wisconsin alerted the state’s health department after recording eight cases of teens who were hospitalized with “seriously damaged lungs” and had all reported vaping in the weeks and months prior to needing treatment. The Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin said in a news release that the teens had all been hospitalized in the month of July, and some even required breathing assistance.
“While an exact cause is unknown, the number of patients in such a short time frame is concerning,” the hospital said, adding that the state health department is investigating. “With the increase in use of e-cigarettes and vaping, parents and teens need to be aware of the potential danger. E-cigarette cartridges can contain toxic chemicals that have been shown to damage lungs. Because these products are still new, the long-term effects of use are not fully understood.”
The hospital said the teens were suffering from shortness of breath, fatigue, chest pains, cough and weight loss. While they improved with treatment, the hospital noted that “long-term effects are not known.”
“It is believed prolonged or continued exposure to these chemicals could lead to more serious health issues like chronic pulmonary disease, a permanent condition which makes lungs less effective at transporting oxygen and is permanent,” the news release said.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says 3.62 million middle and high school students reported using e-cigarettes in 2018, a noted 78 percent increase among high school students from 2017, and 48 percent increase among middle schoolers.
Dr. Michael Gutzeit, the hospital’s chief medical officer, said there isn’t a lot of information available about the long-term or short-term effects that vaping may have on teens, but that they do know “vaping is dangerous,” especially in teens and young adults.
The hospital isn’t the only medical center to express concern about the dangers of vaping in teens, as Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City recently published a case in the New England Journal of Medicine involving a teen whose pen exploded in his face, causing injuries that mimicked “close-range gunshot wounds.”
“He had a very swollen lower jaw and lip, a small burn on his lip and a huge cut in his mouth,” Dr. Katie Russell, a pediatric surgeon who treated the teen, told the Washington Post. “A two-centimeter piece of his jaw was just blown to pieces.”
Russell said she submitted the case to the journal because they had never seen injuries as severe as the teen’s at the hands of a vape pen.
“I had no idea that these vape pens could blow up and cause serious injury,” she told The New York Times. “This technology hit the market by storm and people are not aware. But the fact is that they can burn you. They can explode in your pocket. They can explode in your face. I think there’s a health concern.”