It took just three weeks for an 18-year-old Pennsylvania woman to develop “wet lung.”
According to a case study recently published by the American Academy of Pediatrics on Thursday, the unidentified teenager was diagnosed with hypersensitivity pneumonitis (which is sometimes called wet lung), after trying an e-cigarette.
“Little is known of the health risks of e-cigarette use, especially in children and adolescents,” researchers said in the study. “This is the first reported case of hypersensitivity pneumonitis and acute respiratory distress syndrome as a risk of e-cigarette use in an adolescent, and it should prompt pediatricians to discuss the potential harms of vaping with their patients.”
Wet lung is an acute respiratory distress syndrome, which can happen if an acute inflammatory injury leads to “leaky” blood vessels, says study author and the patient’s pediatrician Dr. Casey Sommerfeld. It can be caused by a reaction to chemicals or dust — in this case, Sommerfeld says chemicals found in her e-cigarettes led to inflammation and lung damage.
“[Leaky blood vessels] can lead to fluid accumulation in the lungs. When this occurs, the lungs cannot exchange oxygen, as it normally does, which causes increased need for oxygen,” she tells Global News. “In this case, the injury was so severe, that the patient required a ventilator to breathe and chest tubes to drain fluid accumulation.”
According to CNN, the teen, who was a hostess at a rural Pennsylvania restaurant, paid an “unusual” price for an e-cigarette, and started developing symptoms shortly after. The report notes the patient had difficulty breathing, a cough, and pleuritic chest pain after using the vape.
And although this is rare, it is important for consumers and parents to know what goes into their e-cigarettes.
More research is needed
Sommerfeld tells Global News the use of electronic cigarettes in the younger population is significantly increasing in the U.S.
“They have been marketed as a safer alternative to typical cigarettes,” she says. “It is important to note that electronic cigarettes still contain nicotine and can be addictive to children.”
She says the long-term effects of vaping is still mostly unknown because of how new some of the products are, but some research does show both young people and adults are dealing with side effects.
“There are a few case reports involving adults that developed respiratory distress following electronic cigarette use, and I suspect we will see more if the use of electronic cigarettes continues to be popular. We should make sure to include vaping or electronic cigarette use when talking to children or our pediatric patients when discussing risky behaviour.”
Other health experts are also concerned about juling, a specific e-cigarette that has become popular and trendy in the U.S. There are also discussions of how addictive nicotine can be, and how some vape users switch to tobacco cigarettes later.
“What we do know is that if you don’t smoke, you shouldn’t start vaping,” Sarah Butson, director of health promotion at the Lung Association, told Global News earlier this month.
And because they are popular (and for many, a good tool to quit smoking cigarettes), Sommerfeld says consumers should be careful when considering which products to purchase.
“There have been multiple reports on adverse events including respiratory issues, nicotine overdoses from ingestion of cartridges, and serious injury from explosion or overheating of vape pens.”
She adds for parents in particular, it’s about discussing the dangers associated with the addiction aspect.
“Electronic cigarettes contain nicotine which can lead to addiction. Side effects include increased heart rate, agitation, dizziness, sweating, vomiting and trouble breathing.”