E-cigarettes heat liquid and turn it into vapor, which users can inhale. Her inhalation of the chemicals they contain, such as nicotine, flavorings, propylene glycol, and vegetable glycerin, caused an immune response in her body that led to "leaky" blood vessels, which can lead to fluid accumulation in the lungs, Sommerfeld told CNN.
Her symptoms listed in the case report were dyspnea, cough, and chest pain. In the past, she said, the only lung problems she had were from mild asthma, which rarely required the use of an inhaler.
The medical journal Pediatrics reports on a case study where this Pennsylvania teen's information is kept anonymous but her condition is analyzed - including her medical history, her intensive care treatment, and why a short stint of vaping had such catastrophic results.
Believing her condition may be caused by a chest infection, doctors at University Pittsburgh Medical Center prescribed her with antibiotics.
Soon, the young woman experienced what is commonly known as respiratory failure, said Dr. Daniel Weiner, one of the patient's doctors, a co-author of the new report and a medical director at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh at UPMC.
While at the ER she needed a breathing machine, and tubes had to be placed inside both sides of her chest to drain fluid from her lungs.
Vaping also accounts for the patient's inflammation and lung damage.
Experts say it's likely that chemicals in e-cigarettes led to the lung inflammation, which triggered the patient's response.
She improved swiftly and was weaned off the mechanical support system five days after being admitted to the hospital. "It is hard to speculate on how frequently this could happen; however, there are a few case reports involving adults that developed respiratory distress following electronic cigarette use", Sommerfeld told CNN. "As electronic cigarette use increases, we will be seeing more case reports and side effects".
"It is hard to speculate on how frequently this could happen; however, there are a few case reports involving adults that developed respiratory distress following electronic cigarette use", Sommerfeld told CNN.
The authors noted e-cigarettes are gaining popularity as an alternative to conventional cigarettes among teenagers, but the health risks remain unclear.
Additionally, the diagnosis of symptoms related to a number of serious lung conditions suggests that the negative health effects of e-cigarettes may "manifest in several different ways", she said.