(CNN) – Vaping might seem like it’s not that harmful, but it’s sending kids to the hospital.
Minnesota’s Department of Health has issued a strong warning to parents and teens about serious lung damage due to vaping.
As Bill Hudson explains, experts are calling e-cigarettes an epidemic.
When e-cigarettes first came on the scene, many saw a safer alternative to smoking tobacco.
But inside Children’s hospital lies proof they’re not.
“Their symptoms look like common infections, and they just don’t get better,” said Dr. Ann Griffiths, a pediatric pulmonologist at Children’s Minnesota.
Four teens are being treated at Children’s for pulmonary disease.
Pediatric pulmonologist, Dr. Ann Griffiths says the vaping epidemic is causing serious damage.
“The lungs are struggling to deal with chemicals that are being inhaled, and the body’s way of handling that is to send more and more immune system to the lungs to get rid of something that it is struggling with, so all that inflammation is causing injury,” said Dr. Griffiths.
Inhaling the battery-heated, vaporized chemicals can lead to shortness of breath, fever, coughing, dizziness and chest pain.
“The smell is easier to hide than cigarettes,” said Tracee Anderson of the Minnesota Teen Challenge.
By design, e-cigarette marketing is clever.
Devices can be hidden in the drawstrings of a hoodie.
It’s why Minnesota Teen Challenge will alert parents to the dangers at their state fair booth.
“It’s like a habit, they’re ingesting so much of it we’ve seen a couple of cases where it’s called nic sick, where students are passing out in school,” Anderson said.
E-cigarettes have surpassed conventional smoking among teens; one in five vapes regularly.
But what’s most alarming, is how quickly vaping is landing young users in hospitals.
“This is exposure for a short period of time relatively speaking, and really severe early injury that’s so worrisome,” Dr. Griffiths said.
Another big concern is long term damage to the lungs in such young patients.
Doctors are hopeful patients will make full recoveries, but since this is all so new, they simply do not know.