Is Vaping Making People Sick?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently announced that it’s found over 150 people with serious respiratory illnesses and a history of vaping in the U.S. We don’t know yet whether vaping caused them to get sick, but an investigation is ongoing. Here’s what you need to know.

What’s going on?

In the past two months, the CDC has collected 153 reports of “possible cases” of a severe lung illness in the U.S. The concerning details are that the illness does not seem to be infectious (so, not caused by a virus or by bacteria) and that the patients all reported vaping before becoming sick.

Editor's Note: While these statistics come from American products and experiences, there is potential for these vapes to cause similar problems in Australia.

Nicotine and THC (cannabis) vapes are both under suspicion. So far, there isn’t a particular product or device that’s been singled out.

Since this is all so new, and no cause has been identified, it’s also possible that the cases aren’t a new disease at all. Maybe there are several different illnesses that have been lumped together, and vaping is so common that its association with the condition is a coincidence. The CDC, FDA, and U.S. state health departments are trying to figure this out.

What are the symptoms?

People with this condition experienced “a gradual start of symptoms” over the course of days or weeks that often included coughing, chest pain and shortness of breath. Some also experienced vomiting, diarrhoea, and fatigue.

Here is a notice intended for medical professionals that gives some more details about what doctors should be looking for and what past cases have looked like. It notes that some patients’ breathing was bad enough to require a ventilator, but that they improved when given corticosteroids. So far, no one has died from this condition.

What should I do if I think this is happening to me?

Any time you have serious difficulty breathing, you should seek medical help anyway. So that’s your first step. Also, make sure you tell your doctor that you vape. They’re not trying to get you in trouble. They just want to know what’s going on and how best to treat you.

There are also plenty of other reasons why a person might have respiratory symptoms. So far this vaping-related illness — if it even is a specific illness and not just a coincidence — has only been found in a handful of people.

So just from the numbers, you’re more likely to have a common respiratory illness (asthma, for example) than the particular combination of symptoms American health authorities are looking out for right now. Either way, your best bet is to seek medical care and have a conversation about your concerns.


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