8 Wisconsin Teens Hospitalized With Severe Lung Damage Possibly Linked to Vaping

July 26, 2019 Updated: July 26, 2019

Health officials in Wisconsin believe vaping is to blame after eight teenagers were hospitalized in July with severe lung damage.

Eight teenagers from Milwaukee, Waukesha, and Winnebago counties have been hospitalized with severe lung damage in the past month, according to a statement released on July 25 by Wisconsin Department of Health Services (WisDHS).

The WisDHS reports that teens brought to the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin had symptoms that included extreme coughing, shortness of breath, and fatigue. Some also experienced fever, nausea, and chest pain.

The statement said the young patients had reported experiencing the symptoms for weeks or even months before seeking medical help and that it was only when their symptoms got progressively worse that they went to the hospital.

“They come in not breathing well and look very sick,” said Louella Amos, the Children’s Hospital’s pediatric pulmonologist, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

She told the newspaper that the teens had gotten “to the point where they can’t breathe.”

Patients have shown improvement after treatment, said the Children’s Hospital. Out of the eight initial patients, only one remained in the hospital as of July 25. Long-term effects, however, are not yet known.

“All patients reported vaping in the weeks and months prior to hospital admission,” said the WisDHS in the statement. “The names and types of products used remain unknown, and patient interviews are ongoing.”

“The popularity of vaping is obviously skyrocketing among our kids, and its dangers are still relatively unknown. We don’t have a lot of information about the long-term effects or even the short-term effects,” said Michael Gutzeit, the Children’s Hospital’s chief medical officer, reported the Journal Sentinel. “What we do know is vaping is dangerous. It’s especially dangerous in teenagers and young adults.”

In the wake of report, the American Lung Association in Wisconsin, has called on lawmakers in recent years to tax e-cigarettes the same as traditional cigarettes and to raise the state’s legal minimum purchase age to 21. The non-profit health organization released the following statement:

Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, one of the nation’s most widely-respected health care organizations, today released information of the hospitalization of eight teens for lung damage, which medical experts suspect is linked to e-cigarette use.

The American Lung Association has always held the position that e-cigarette use is NOT safe, especially by youth whose lungs are still developing. E-cigarettes contain chemicals, heavy metals and fine particulates. The candy and fruit-flavorings that so many youth find appealing also contain chemicals known to cause irreparable lung damage. These flavorings are designed to tempt kids and give the false impression that e-cigarettes are safe. Contrary to what the industry would have them believe, e-cigarettes are NOT SIMPLY HARMLESS WATER VAPOR.

Wisconsin had made enormous strides in reducing smoking rates but now faces a new generation of nicotine addiction among our youth. We call on lawmakers to act swiftly to enact laws to turn the tide on this growing epidemic – raising the legal purchase of all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes to 21, adding e-cigarettes to the states smoke free air law and taxing e-cigarettes the same as regular combustible cigarettes.

Matthias Salathe, professor and chair of internal medicine at the University of Kansas Medical Center, told The Journal-Sentinal: “We need to look at it from two different angles,” he said. “Vaping in general, the long-term consequences, and then are there cases of things being put in it.”

“Teenagers are very facts driven,” Salathe said. “We were very successful in convincing teenagers not to smoke cigarettes. That was due to a presentation of facts. … We need to know more. The question is what did they vape?”