There has been a significant rise in the number of cases of children ingesting the liquid in e-cigarettes, prompting poison experts at Public Health England to warn parents to keep them out of reach.
In 2013, the National Poisons Information Service (NPIS) received more calls related to exposure to e-cigarette fluid than in the six years previously, its 2013–2014 annual report says.
Of the 204 calls about e-cigarettes in 2013, almost half related to children and young people, and 22% concerned children aged under five years. In the vast majority of cases, the liquid had been ingested.
In most cases (162 of 204) exposure to e-cigarette fluid was accidental, 21 instances involved intentional overdoses, and the remainder related to adverse reactions to intended use, recreational abuse and “therapeutic errors”.
Nicotine poisoning has the potential to cause vomiting, hyperventilation, and changes in heart rate. In half of cases in 2013 (103), there were no obvious clinical features of toxicity, but mild effects were reported in 94 instances, moderate effects in two cases (one aged 13 months), and one person was treated in intensive care.
“E-cigarettes are becoming increasingly popular and adults using these products should be careful about keeping them out of reach of children, just as they would cleaning products,” says John Thompson, director of the Cardiff unit of NPIS.
“Children are curious and we know from experiences with other products that sometimes they explore their environment by putting things in their mouths,” he added.