‘We don’t want kids to have to go through this’: Teens using e-cigarettes showing symptoms similar to coronavirus

‘We don’t want kids to have to go through this’: Teens using e-cigarettes showing symptoms similar to coronavirus
(Cindy Kelly)

ORLANDO, Fla. — With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, doctors said there is another program showing up in the emergency room. Teenagers who use e-cigarettes need treatment.

In 2019, the war to get e-cigarettes out of the hands of teenagers ramped up as more teens who used them began showing up to hospitals unable to breathe.

The Florida Department of Health’s website said there were 110 reported cases of vaping-related illnesses and two deaths throughout the state last year.

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Dr. Jenna Wheeler, a pediatric critical care physician, said issues related to vaping haven’t gone away despite more focus on the coronavirus.

Wheeler said this month she has seen four teenagers come in with what looked like symptoms of the coronavirus but they turned out to have vaping-related illnesses.

According to the Florida Department of Health, there have been nine cases reported this year.

“When these kids have come in they’re coming in breathing at a very fast rate with a low oxygen levels. They’ve had fevers,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler said during a pandemic, the first thought everyone has is it could be the coronavirus because the symptoms are similar.

“It hasn’t been until testing has been done and we’ve really had a chance to at least talk to teenagers and find out some good history that it’s not the virus we’re dealing with,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler said the four patients she’s seen made a full recovery, and now she has a warning for people who use e-cigarettes.

“We don’t want kids to have to go through this. We don’t want families to have to go through this,” Wheeler said. “I know there were lots of comments like, ‘I’ll never do this again. I don’t want my friends doing this.’”