Doctors say effects of vaping-related illness, flu are dangerously similar

Published: Oct. 30, 2019 at 8:26 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The effects of vaping and the flu are so similar, it's dangerous.

As flu season ramps up and vaping maintains popularity, people at risk of getting sick from either or both increase.

Many of the symptoms of vaping-related illness and the flu overlap like coughing, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, and vomiting, according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.

Considering the similarities, doctors are at risk of misdiagnosing and mistreating patients, according to Dr. Deborah Greenhouse, a pediatrician at Prisma Health.

"Flu season is frightening for pediatricians in the best of all possible worlds,” Greenhouse said. “If you throw in the potential for this vaping-related illness on top of that it becomes even more frightening," she continued.

The two can also amplify each other, making the combination more dangerous.

“They certainly can coexist, and if they do, the chances are the child or the adolescent is going to get even sicker if they catch the flu,” Greenhouse said.

Doctors said vaping can increase the risk and symptoms of more disease than the flu. Recent studies show vaping causes irritation and inflammation to the lungs, so potentially increasing the chance of people contracting any respiratory disease.

The connection between the two fascinates some researchers because it’s a reminder of how this epidemic was first discovered.

“The vaping-related lung injury epidemic emerged because it looked very much like an infectious disease but wasn't responding to the infectious disease treatment,” said Anthony Alberg, an epidemiologist at the University of South Carolina.

However, the recent concern over the connection between vaping and the flu serves as a reminder of how much research there is left to do.

“There’s a lot of stuff in there that we don’t know what it does, making it more frightening,” Greenhouse said.

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