Diagnosing respiratory illness associated with vaping has become extremely difficult during the pandemic, since both COVID-19 and e-cigarette, or vaping, product-use-associated lung injury (EVALI) share many symptoms. But Intermountain experts say it’s more important than ever to watch for the condition, especially because a new Stanford University study found vaping is linked to a substantially increased risk of COVID-19 among teenagers and young adults. The Stanford study found that among young people tested for COVID-19, those who vaped were five to seven times more likely to become infected than those who didn’t.
“EVALI is still happening and on the rise again as people use vaping to cope with pandemic stress,” said Denitza Blagev, MD, an Intermountain pulmonary and critical care physician. “It’s important for clinicians to keep EVALI in mind as they’re considering COVID-19. EVALI has a different prognosis and there are additional therapies we can use to treat these patients, as long as we can diagnose them.”
A new study by researchers from Intermountain and University of Utah Health, published in the journal CHEST, looked at patients diagnosed with EVALI at the two institutions since March 2020 and found two important differences that can help providers differentiate between EVALI and COVID-19. First, COVID-19 often leads to normal or low white blood cell counts, while EVALI patients show an increased white blood cell count. Second, patients with severe EVALI tend to be younger than 30, while COVID-19 rarely severely affects younger adults.
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