Iowa Specialty Hospital

Severe Respiratory Illness & Death Associated with Vaping

October 15, 2019

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 46 states have reported 805 severe respiratory illnesses among individuals with a history of vaping.  Unfortunately, 12 vaping-related deaths have also been reported to date according to the CDC. Vaping is the practice of inhaling vapor from an e-cigarette device which works by heating a liquid that can contain nicotine, marijuana, or other drugs.

While the long-term health impacts of vaping are unknown, reported symptoms include cough, fatigue, dizziness, headache, vomiting, diarrhea, chest pain, and difficulty breathing. Sometimes symptoms escalate to the point of requiring intensive care.  Many cases have initially presented with a history of a cough that will not respond to treatment and there are no other signs of an infection.  Over days or weeks, symptoms progress with worsening respiratory distress, sometimes requiring ventilator support.

The use of vaping products and e-cigarettes is dangerous for adults and youths alike.  However, the use of nicotine can harm the developing adolescent brain and form lifelong addictions.  In some individuals who have been hospitalized, diminished lung capacity, as well as struggles with short-term memory have occurred. Doctors are uncertain if these individuals will fully recover.  Individuals who use, or have used, these products need to inform their healthcare providers, especially if they are experiencing any of the above mentioned symptoms. 

While vaping products fall under FDA regulations for nicotine products, the flavored fluids associated do not. These flavors appeal to smaller children, and in some cases, “vape” fluid ingestion causing nicotine overdose have occurred in toddlers. Additionally, isolated cases of exploding pens causing jaw damage have been reported. Furthermore, the vaping fluid also remains unregulated, as the construction of the delivery mechanism (heating coil) delivers an unpredictable amount of nicotine or other substances that may be in the fluid. 

While vaping products have been touted as a healthier alternative to smoking, as more vaping-related illnesses are reported, it appears evident vaping is not safe for anyone.


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