Vaping-related illness symptoms reported online for years, study finds


Health problems linked to use of e-cigarettes were discussed online for at least the last seven years, well before e-cigarette product use-associated lung injury was recognized by the healthcare community, according to a study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

Researchers from University of California, Riverside, collected data posted between January 2008 and July 2015 on a large e-cigarette online discussion forum. They used an automated computer tool to extract information on symptoms and disorders from seven health subforums. The tool combed through more than 41,000 posts.

The study shows the top five symptoms mentioned on the forum were headache, coughing, pain in throat, itching and malaise. The top five disorders were dehydration, asthma, pharyngitis, common cold and aptyalism, or issues with saliva secretion.

These symptoms and disorders line up with the symptoms of those suffering from vaping-related illness, including headache, nausea, mouth/throat pain as well as neurological and respiratory symptoms.

"Our data, which shows many of the symptoms characterizing the current patients have been reported online for at least seven years, suggests cases similar to those in the current [vaping-associated pulmonary illness] epidemic have existed previously and been unreported or simply not linked to vaping," said Prue Talbot, PhD, a professor of cell biology at UC Riverside and leader of the research team.

As of Dec. 27, 2019, 55 people had died, and 2,506 had been hospitalized due to vaping illness.

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