Vaping is found to be a common denominator behind hundreds of hospitalizations, though health officials still don’t know exactly why. Here’s what we know so far.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), vaping has officially—though still broadly—been linked to the recent surge in hundreds of reported cases of severe, acute respiratory illnesses over the past few months in young people (patients’ median age is 19).

Per the CDC’s most recent press release, updated on September 6, more than 450 cases of possible lung illness across 33 states have been reported to CDC since April 2019—including five confirmed deaths. Most of the victims of the unknown affliction have been hospitalized with some combination of respiratory symptoms (mainly cough, chest pain, and shortness of breath), gastrointestinal issues, and fever-like symptoms.

Though robust, the public health investigation into the exact cause of these mounting pulmonary cases in the U.S. is still ongoing—but investigators do know one thing: Every affected patient reportedly has a history of using vapes or other e-cigarette products.

Unlike traditional cigarettes, which burn tobacco and emit smoke, e-cigarettes contain cartridges filled with nicotine and other chemicals that dissolve and emit vapor when heated (hence, “vaping”). Due to the relatively recent popularity of vaping and e-cigarette use (they’ve only been widely available in the U.S. since 2006) there is, understandably, limited research available on its long-term health effects. But this spike in scary vaping-linked hospitalizations across the country over the past few months has people on high alert.

Officials have not yet singled out one responsible substance, product, or device as the cause, since tests have yet to pinpoint one common chemical or substance within the product samples. Many (but not all) of the affected patients had recently used vape products containing THC liquid—the psychoactive cannabinoid in cannabis that gets you high (as opposed to CBD, which cannot get you high)—some had used products containing both THC and nicotine, and another subset used only nicotine-containing products.

In an article in The New England Journal of Medicine on Friday, David Christiani, MD, of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said, “About 80 percent of the persons who vaped and became ill reported having used both nicotine products and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or cannabidiol (CBD) products.” Dr. Christiani also notes that “the mixing of multiple ingredients with primary compounds and potential contaminants” results in the production of “new agents that may be toxic.”

Summer is usually a time for enjoying picnics, swimming and grilling out. It can also be a time for more poisonings because the days are longer and children are outdoors more. As the seasons and weather change, so do the types of calls to the Nebraska Regional Poison Center. Some examples of calls to the Poison Center in the summer months include; bites and stings, insect repellents, hydrocarbons, glow sticks, fireworks, food poisoning, and swimming pool chlorine.

Bites and Stings: This category can include bee stings, spider and snake bites. Close observation for an allergic reactions is important, especially in the first hour after a sting. Ice is ok for most stings and bites, with the exception of snake bites. Some of the old wives tales on treating bites and stings aren’t always correct. Always call the Poison Center for assistance.

Insect Repellents: Only use insect repellents that are meant to be used on the skin. Avoid over-application. The long word for DEET is N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide. Most labels will have the long chemical word listed. Use concentrations < 20%. A higher concentration does not mean that the product will work better, rather it means that it will be effective for a longer period of time. Use repellents only when outdoors and wash skin with soap and water when coming in. Picaridin is an odorless synthetic ingredient found in some bug repellents and is a safe alternative to use on children. Follow all label directions.

Hydrocarbons: This category can include gasoline, kerosene, lighter fluids and torch fuels. The hydrocarbon group is slick and oily. One of the main risks with ingestion is that it may “slip” into the lung causing a chemical pneumonia. Store all of these products in the original container and well out of reach of little hands.

Glow Sticks: Glow sticks are a common call to the Poison Center.  The liquid on contact with mouth, skin and eyes can be irritating.

Fireworks: Fireworks may contain a number of toxic chemicals and can be dangerous if swallowed. Always call the Poison Center for case specific recommendations.

Food Poisoning: When firing up the grill or heading to a picnic, it’s important to take some precautions. Remember to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. The USDA recommends fully cooking all meats to ensure bacteria are destroyed to prevent food poisoning. Meats should be cooked to 160 degrees. Always use a food thermometer.

Swimming pool chlorine: When too much chlorine is added to water in a swimming pool, contact with the skin and eyes may result in redness and a burning sensation. If you suspect an overly chlorinated pool, rinse your skin and eyes immediately, contact the lifeguard/pool manager, and call the Poison Center. Chlorine from an indoor pool, or opening a container of chlorine pool tablets may cause coughing or tightness in the lungs. Seek fresh air immediately.


The Nebraska Regional Poison Center is a free community service to the public.

Call 1-800-222-1222 and talk immediately to a Registered Nurse or Pharmacist 24/7/365.

Text “poison” to 797979 to save the contact information for the poison center in your smart phone.

Did you know the Nebraska Regional Poison Center as well as all poison centers across our nation never close?  In 1961, Congress established National Poison Prevention Week to raise awareness, reduce unintentional poisonings, and promote poison prevention. Each year, more than 2 million poisonings are reported to the nation’s poison centers, which can be reached by calling 1-800-222-1222.

Most poisoning deaths are due to misuse and abuse of drugs, but poisoning exposures can involve a vast array of substances such as household cleaning products, personal care products, chemicals, bites and stings, pesticides, plants, gasses and batteries.  Poisonings happen every day in every age group.

The Nebraska Regional Poison Center will unite with the nation’s other 54 poison centers to celebrate the  57th Annual National Poison Prevention Week on March 17-23, 2019, a week dedicated to raising awareness about poisoning in the U.S. and highlighting ways to prevent it.

There are actions that we can all take to reduce Poisonings.  Here are just a few:

  • Save the Poison Center number in your phone as a contact: 1-800-222-1222
  • Be sure to read and follow medicine labels every time.
  • Never share your medicine with others or use someone else’s medicine.
  • Remember to always use the dosing device that comes with the medicine.
  • Take only one medicine at a time with the same active ingredient.
  • Store all medicines up and away and out of reach and sight of children.
  • Teach children to only take medicines with the permission and guidance from a parent or trusted adult.
  • Install and maintain carbon monoxide detectors in your home.
  • Be aware of where the disc batteries are in your home. They may be found in remote controls, key fobs, watches and toys. Keep batteries away from children!
  • Make sure all cleaning materials, including laundry packets, are stored in original containers and up and out of sight of children.
  • It is important to get rid of old and unused medicines as soon as you don’t need them anymore.  There are pharmacies that take back medications year round.  The Poison Center will help you locate the pharmacy nearest you.
  • Text “poison” to 797979 to save the contact information for poison control in your smartphone.

The Nebraska Regional Poison Center is a free community service to the public.

 When you call 1-800-222-1222, you will speak immediately to a

 Registered Nurse or Pharmacist 24/7/365.

Poison Prevention Tips from the Nebraska Regional Poison Center

Poisonings are a leading cause of unintentional injury death in the U.S.  While the majority of poison-related exposures occur in children under 5 years of age, deaths among young children have decreased over the years in great part to poison centers’ accessibility to the public and their efforts to provide public education and sound the alarm on the dangers of household products and medications.  Currently, the majority of poisoning fatalities result from medication overdoses in adults.

Many poisonings are preventable and expert help is just a phone call away.  Poison control centers save lives and health care dollars.  The Nebraska Regional Poison Center is staffed by experienced, nationally-certified registered nurses and physicians who provide immediate assistance to health care providers and the public regarding the treatment of poisoning exposures 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  More than 75% of poisoning exposure cases are managed at home, greatly reducing the need for a costly emergency department visit.

Here are some poison prevention tips to protect yourself and your family:

  • Program the toll-free number for the poison center (1-800-222-1222) into your cell phone or text “poison” to 797979 to save the contact information for poison control.
  • Be sure to read and follow medicine labels every time. Never take larger or more frequent doses of your medications to try to get faster or more powerful effects.
  • Never share your medicine with others or use someone else’s medicine.
  • Remember to always use the dosing device that comes with the medicine container.
  • Check medications’ active ingredients, especially when taking more than one product, to avoid taking the same medication twice. For example, acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be found in a variety of fever reducers, pain medications, cold, and flu medications.  Taking acetaminophen too often or at too high of a dose can cause liver damage and other toxic effects.
  • Store all medicines out of reach and sight of children. Be aware that children are at risk when guests bring medications into your home.
  • Dispose of all unwanted and expired medications. The poison center can direct you to the nearest location to dispose of them.
  • Carbon monoxide (CO) is a poisonous gas with no color, odor or taste. Nebraska has one of the highest CO fatality rates in the U.S.  A functioning CO detector should be located near all sleeping areas and on every level of your home.
  • Be aware of where the disc batteries are in your home. They may be found in remote controls, key fobs, watches and toys. These batteries have caused fatalities in children.
  • Laundry detergent packets (pods) are convenient, but also attractive to children and toxic when ingested or rubbed into eyes. Be sure all cleaning materials are stored in original containers and up and out of sight of children.
  • Never mix household products together. For example, mixing bleach with acid-containing cleaners or with ammonia can result in toxic gases.
  • Flavored refills for electronic cigarettes contain high concentrations of nicotine, which can be fatal to children if ingested.

  Call the poison center 1-800-222-1222 before you head to the emergency room for a poisoning. Your call is free and confidential. You will speak with a Registered Nurse or Pharmacist.  You will be given expert advice 24/7/365!  Your call is free and confidential.

Poison Prevention Tips

Carbon Monoxide (CO): Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless dangerous gas. It can be produced by:

  • Burning charcoal indoors
  • Gas-fueled water heaters
  • Heating a home with a gas stove
  • Improperly functioning gas furnace
  • Vehicle exhaust
  • Wood stoves

CO can mimic other illnesses such as the stomach flu or food poisoning. Early symptoms are headache and feeling sick to your stomach and/or vomiting. Other symptoms can also include drowsiness and
dizziness. Always keep a CO detector in your home.

Antifreeze: Antifreeze is available as radiator antifreeze (often contains ethylene glycol) or windshield wiper solution (contains methanol). Both are highly toxic substances.

  • The colors and sweet taste may be attractive to young children.
  • Keep antifreeze products out of the reach of children.
  • Always keep antifreeze in its original container and stored in locked cabinets.

Halloween: The Nebraska Regional Poison Center wishes you a happy and safe Halloween. Listed below are Halloween tips for parents with youngsters.

  • Check treats thoroughly before allowing children to eat them.
  • Check wrappers for holes, tears and signs of rewrapping or tampering.
  • Throw away unwrapped candy or fruits if the source is unknown.
  • Be watchful of glow sticks and jewelry. If one breaks, avoid skin, mouth and eye contact.
  • If your children use make-up rather than a mask, watch out for possible skin irritation, such as a rash or itching. If this occurs, remove the make-up immediately and thoroughly cleanse the area with soap and water.
  • Dress children in light-colored clothing, short enough to prevent tripping and apply reflective tape for added safety.
  • Carry a flashlight after dusk and watch for cars. Try to finish before dark.
  • An adult should accompany young children and Halloween visits should be limited to familiar, local neighborhoods.
  • Make sure children can see well enough through facemasks to prevent falls.
  • Dry ice can be used in punch bowls but should not be used in individual glasses. Frostbite can occur if skin comes into contact with dry ice.

Call the Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222 and talk immediately to a Registered Nurse or Pharmacist 24/7/365

Be safe in the Season of Fall