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An 18-Year-Old Develops 'Wet Lung' After Vaping For 3 Weeks

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With the medical risks of e-cigarettes still being investigated, a teen experienced first-hand health complications after vaping for just a short period of time.

How A Teenager Developed Wet Lung From E-Cigarettes

An 18-year-old restaurant hostess in rural Pennsylvania developed respiratory failure with hypoxia and could only breathe out of a respirator. The previously healthy teen began smoking e-cigarettes three weeks before she developed the illness.

The findings of her story were published in May 2018 in the journal Pediatrics.

The woman developed a bad cough and she experienced difficulty breathing. She also complained about stabbing pains in her chest that occurred with every breath.

Before these symptoms developed, her only previous lung problem was mild asthma.

After ruling out a cold, the woman visited the emergency room of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Tests confirmed that chemicals from vaping damaged her lung and caused severe inflammation. The symptoms were part of her body's immune response.

"This immune response can lead to increased inflammation and 'leaky' blood vessels, which can lead to fluid accumulation in the lungs," Dr. Casey Sommerfeld told CNN. 

The doctors diagnosed her with hypersensitivity pneumonitis, also known as wet lung. A chronic form of wet lung, such as this case, typically takes many years to develop.

The Treatment She Received For Wet Lung

With her condition worsening, she was admitted to the pediatric intensive-care unit. She was placed on a mechanical ventilator to help her breathe. The doctors also placed chest tubes to drain the effusions.

Extensive testing revealed dependent opacities in both lungs, cellular debris, and reactive mononuclear cells. Doctors treated her with an IV of methylprednisolone, a drug for inflammation and allergies.

After five days in the hospital, the patient improved, and she no longer needed the mechanical ventilator.

A Warning To All Teens About The Dangers Of Vaping

The doctors say that is the first reported case of wet lung and acute respiratory distress syndrome for a teen who used e-cigarettes. The story should encourage doctors to speak to their young patients about the risks of e-cigarettes.

"It is difficult to speculate on how frequently this could happen; however, there are a few case reports involving adults that developed respiratory distress following electronic cigarette use," Sommerfeld told CNN. "As electronic cigarette use increases, we will be seeing more case reports and side effects."

E-cigarette use is increasing among teens in the United States. Most medical experts agree that teens should avoid them because of the health risks.

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