East TN doctors share concerns amid reported vaping hospitalizations

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – We’re learning more about e-cigarettes and the possible dangers to teenagers. This, after an East Tennessee high schooler was airlifted to UT Medical Center.

RELATED: Monroe County student flown to hospital for vaping-related medical emergency

On Wednesday, the Monroe County School System shared that a Sequoyah High School student was taken to the hospital. Because the student is a minor, no other information, including their condition, is available.

Nationally the CDC reports at least 805 possible cases of vaping related lung injuries from 46 states, with 36 of those cases in Tennessee. Public health officials have reported 12 confirmed deaths nationwide.

East Tennessee health educators say when we talk about e-cigarettes or vaping, this is all new and we’re still learning the implications it has on the body.

MORE ONLINE | Teens and vaping: Dangers and symptoms parents should know

Kerri Thompson, Public Health Educator with the Knox County Health Department, says if a teen begins vaping, there is an increased likelihood they’ll pick up a traditional cigarette within 18 months.

“It’s harmful. It’s harmful across the board, so do what you need to do to help your child,” she added.

Doctors say there’s not enough research yet to show how an e-cigarette can impact a teen’s brain and lung development.

RELATED: US vaping illness count jumps to 805, deaths rise to 13

“The problem with vaping is that there’s a combination of chemicals that are heated to a high temperature that we don’t understand yet, what additional toxins or poisons are formed when that happens and you inhale them,” said Dr. J Turner, a pulmonologist at UT Medical Center.

The CDC says the liquid in e-cigarettes can contain nicotine, THC and CBD oils, along with other substances, flavorings and additives.

“When you’re talking about over 8,000 different flavors with the e-juices for e-cigarettes, that’s a lot of investigative work and a lot of different companies too to determine what all is in these products,” said Thompson.

For now, the CDC has not identified any specific product or substance linked to the injuries or deaths we’re seeing nationwide.

“The lung acts like a filter and if you breathe in small particles that we know causes inflammation from these various products, it can cause short or long-term damage to the lungs,” said Dr. Turner.

Here’s how doctors say the body reacts when using e-cigarettes:

“The body doesn’t know what to do with these chemicals and essentially mounts an immune response to try to protect us. Now, what happens is, is like allergies, it’s trying to protect us but it’s reacting to the allergy or in this case to the chemical, whatever it might be, that’s triggering it and you’re getting these inflammatory reactions,” said Dr. Clayton Bell, Integrated Medicine at UT Medical Center.

We’re told symptoms from vaping include shortness of breath, trouble breathing, as well as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain.

If you’re worried that your teen may be vaping, Thompson says there are warning signs.

“A change in behavior. With regards to brain development, nicotine addiction and use of these products can increase mood instability, can make them more irritable, change their appetite, you can see lack of impulse control,” Thompson said.

Health care officials also say to have an open and honest discussion with your teen about the harm of vaping, ask them if they need help quitting, and make sure you know what each e-cigarette device looks like.

The CDC says if you’re worried about your health after using an e-cigarette, contact your doctor or your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.

Another resource is calling the Tennessee Tobacco QuitLine at 1-800-QUIT or 1-800-784-8669.

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