Could You Develop ‘Wet Lung’

In the past 5 years, there has been a massive increase in the use of e-cigarettes or ‘vapes’ in the UK. In 2017, studies showed that almost 3 billion people now use e-cigarettes in Britain, with over half the population being non-smokers, for the first time ever. Since recent studies have shown that e-cigarettes are much safer than tobacco cigarettes, many people have been using this alternative to replace cigarettes, with some using it as a method to quit smoking.

Over the years, there have been many different speculations about vaping and the risks that they pose to your health; such as increasing your chance of heart disease and cancer. With this increase, there have been many teenagers under the age of 18 who are getting access to their own vapes; with it being easy to acquire the vapes and e-cigarettes.

How Do E-Cigarettes Work?

An e-cigarette is essentially a battery powered device that converts the liquid nicotine into a thick vapor, that the user will inhale and exhale. It gives the person a similar sensation, to which they would get from smoking a cigarette; without the harms associated from tobacco.

The e-juice typically consists of a mixture of 90% propylene glycol or vegetable glycerin and 10% food grade flavouring and nicotine. In essence, there is not much in an e-cigarette that can cause harm to your body, although excessive use of anything can cause implications.

So, What is ‘Wet Lung’?

You may or may not have heard this term being used frequently in the recent news. A teenager from Pennsylvania, USA, developed ‘wet lung’ from using e-cigarettes for only 3 weeks. She had respiratory failure, which was believed to have been caused by the chemicals in the e-liquid.

‘Wet lung’ is a name that is commonly used for acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). This is a life-threatening condition where the lungs cannot provide the body’s vital organs with enough oxygen. ARDS happens when your lungs become inflamed due to an infection or injury. The severity of the inflammation causes fluid from the nearby blood vessels to disperse into the small air sacs in your lungs, which subsequently increases difficulty when breathing.

A full assessment will need to be done, to diagnose for ARDS. This is likely to include:

  • A physical examination
  • Blood tests
  • A pulse oximetry test
  • A chest x-ray and CT scan
  • An echocardiogram


Treatment for ARDS

As ARDS is often caused by a serious health condition, and so the person who develops ARDS may not be able to recover from it, due to the underlying illness. For this reason, it is essential to get checked as soon as you can, when you experience any of these symptoms:

  • Severe shortness of breath
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Tiredness, drowsiness or confusion
  • Feeling faint


If you develop ARDS you will most likely be admitted to an intensive care unit where you will be put on a breathing machine to help assist your breathing. You will be fed through a nasogastric tube, to retain fluids and nutrients. There is no direct cure for ARDS and so it is often difficult to treat and so the main treatment will be for the underlying illness.

Although e-cigarettes are much less harmful than tobacco cigarettes, it is important that you understand the potential risks of anything that you are using. Although the risks on e-cigarettes are low, you should be monitoring your daily usage and making sure that you are not using it excessively. You may also be allergic to chemicals, unbeknownst to you and so you could potentially develop other lung diseases such as hypersensitivity pneumonitis.