It can be hard to tell if your child is vaping — and the results can be scary.
Vaping, originally designed as a better alternative to cigarettes to help people quit smoking, is proving to have a host of side effects.
More worrisome, vaping has also been tied to a number of illnesses and hospitalizations across the country, including some deaths. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1,299 lung injury cases associated with the use of e-cigarette, or vaping, products have been reported as of October and 26 deaths have been confirmed in 21 states.
Fifteen percent of the patients were under age 18.
Dr. Andrew Garner, clinical professor of pediatrics at CWRU School of Medicine and primary care pediatrician with Partners in Pediatrics of University Hospitals, suggests there are signs to look out for if you suspect your child is vaping.
- Unusual looking pens and USB drives: Vaping devices don’t necessary look like what you’d expect. Some are sleek, attractive and look similar to USB flash drives but with holes on each end. Also, look for refill pods, atomizers and cartridges, and batteries that require recharging.
- Caffeine sensitivity: Nicotine can stimulate the release of adrenaline, resulting in an increased heart rate and an elevated blood pressure, much like a shot of espresso. Since caffeine can also increase your heart rate and blood pressure, kids might start to note that too much of a “good thing” actually does not feel very good at all.
- Unexplained sweet scent: Though vaping can be odorless, many teens are attracted to the scented flavored pods. The most popular flavors are sweet smelling and very fruity, like candy, fruit loops and blueberries.
- Odd changes in behavior: Vaping can cause dry mouth, increased thirst, a lack of taste and nosebleeds. These symptoms are thought to be due to propylene glycol, a dehydrating chemical in many vaping juices that attracts water molecules, preventing them from being absorbed into the body. So if your child is suddenly experiencing nosebleeds, drinking more than usual, or eating spicier foods, it may be worth investigating the cause.
- Persistent coughing, throat clearing and mouth sores: As mentioned earlier, vaping causes a drying effect that could lead to these symptoms, but they could also be due to irritation of the airway or a reduction in the ability of the immune system to fight airway infections. Kids who vape are twice as likely to develop airway infections like bronchitis or pneumonia.
- Irritability: Many kids who vape become addicted to the nicotine rush, and they will begin to experience withdrawal if they are unable to get another hit of nicotine. Despite their ostensible role in smoking prevention, this is why kids who vape are four times more likely to start smoking cigarettes — it’s another way to get that rush.
Garner encourages parents to use caution if your child is showing signs of these symptoms or behaviors, as they could be caused by many other conditions as well. It’s important to avoid being too accusatory, but do see your pediatrician to investigate.
Have a Conversation
The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, a non-profit dedicated to helping families whose son or daughter is struggling with substance use, provides some tips on how to talk to your kids about vaping.
Be equipped with facts. Make sure to do your research and not try to discuss vaping based on hearsay or rumors.
Be on the lookout for opportunities to discuss vaping, which can present themselves in many ways: letters from the school, advertisements, seeing it on TV, walking by someone vaping or passing a vape shop.
Be ready to listen rather than lecture. Try using an open-ended question like “What do you think about vaping?” to get the conversation going.
Convey your expectations. Express your understanding of the risks along with why you don’t want your child vaping. If you choose to set consequences, be sure to follow through while reinforcing healthier choices.
Be a good role model. Set a positive example by being vape and tobacco-free. If you do vape, keep your equipment and supplies secured.