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Liquid Nicotine in E-Cigarettes Rising Cause of Poisonings: CDC

Calls to poison control centers have jumped, ingestion could be deadly for kids, experts report

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If there are no symptoms, then the patient will be told to stay home and the center will call again in a few hours to see how the patient is doing. If liquid nicotine was spilled on the skin, the person should wash his or her skin in lukewarm water for about 20 minutes, Hanoian-Fontana added.

"We want to know what happened, when it happened and if the person is having any effects from the liquid nicotine," she explained. "Then we are going to make a determination whether this is something we can keep at home, or if they are having severe symptoms we may recommend that they go into the emergency department. It's very case-based, depending on the situation."

McAfee noted that the nicotine poisoning problem may be even bigger than the CDC report indicates.

"All we are reporting is calls to poison control centers. There are many people who had an episode, but didn't call a poison control center. This report also doesn't include people who had such severe symptoms that they called 911 or went to an emergency room," he said.

The report is published in the April 4 issue of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

As part of the study, the researchers compared the monthly volume of calls to poison centers involving e-cigarettes and regular cigarettes. They found the proportion of e-cigarette-related calls jumped from 0.3 percent in September 2010 to 41.7 percent in February 2014.

"The remarkable thing about this is that e-cigarettes account for less than 2 percent of tobacco product sales," McAfee said.

The number of calls per month about regular cigarettes did not increase during the same period. The most common way regular cigarettes cause a problem is when a child eats one, the researchers said.

That more than half the calls were about children is very concerning, said Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency medicine physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

"That's a warning for parents who use these products. They need to keep them locked in a secure place, and it argues for tamperproof caps on these liquid nicotine products to prevent kids from getting into them," he said. "These can be deadly -- the risks are real."

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