Teenager given hyperbaric oxygen therapy after smoking hookah pipe

The teenager smoked a hookah pipe with her friends at home and lost consciousness,” said Professor Ram Weiss, a Pediatrics Director at Rambam.

October 10, 2018 08:33
2 minute read.
Woman smokes nargila from a hookah

Woman smokes nargila from a hookah 150. (photo credit: REUTERS/Sharif Karim)


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A 16-year old girl was rushed to the emergency room at Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa last week after smoking a hookah pipe, according to a statement to the press released Tuesday.

“The teenager smoked a hookah pipe with her friends at home and lost consciousness,” said Professor Ram Weiss, Director of the Department of Pediatrics at the Ruth Rappaport Children’s Hospital at Rambam. “She was brought to Rambam by ambulance, and following her arrival, she received treatment in the pressure chamber. One day later, her condition improved and she was sent home.”

The patient was diagnosed with extremely high blood levels of the poison carboxyhemoglobin, the statement said.

The hookah pipe looks innocent, but is extremely harmful,” said Professor Lea Bentur, Director of the D. Dan & Betty Kahn Foundation Pediatric Pulmonary Institute at the Ruth Rappaport Children’s Hospital at Rambam. “In past studies conducted at Rambam, we proved the dangers of hookah pipe smoking and the damage it causes. After smoking a hookah pipe for 30 minutes, it’s possible to measure serious damage to lung function, an increase in blood pressure and heart rate, and a decrease in blood oxidation. It’s difficult to comprehend, but smoking once from a hookah pipe contains the amount of nicotine equal to that of 10 cigarettes and the amount of toxins found in 100 cigarettes.”

“We encounter a number of cases like this each year that require pressure chamber treatment,” Bentur said. “Only a month ago we treated a similar case, and there have been even worse cases. Parents need to be knowledgeable about the issue and understand its severity.”

Hookah, which involves vaporizing or smoking flavored tobacco through a water pipe, has been practiced for hundreds of years in the Middle East, North Africa and Central and South Asia. Lately, it has also become popular in the US, Europe and Brazil, especially among college students and other young adults.

In Israel, smoking has made a comeback, where overall tobacco usage rates outpace those in comparably-developed countries.
Hookah in particular is a popular activity in Israel, especially among teenagers and young adults. Most people don't associate any health risks with the practice, but research has shown otherwise.

According to an official Israeli government report, sales of tobacco for water pipes rose 28 percent from 2016 to 2017. In the same time frame, sales of loose tobacco grew by 9.3 percent. The World Health Organization reports that 25.4 percent of Israelis 15 and older smoke tobacco; the global average is 21.9 percent.

Tobacco Atlas notes that 41.2 percent more men and 19.3 percent more women 15 or older smoke in Israel than on average in similarly developed countries. Israel, which prefers to distinguish itself from its Middle Eastern neighbors, is therefore very much like them in this regard.

Tobacco usage is particularly prevalent in the Israeli military. According to a 2017 study, 36.5 percent of Israelis smoke upon being discharged from the army in comparison to 26.2 percent before being drafted.“

Tobacco use is also particularly high in the Arab community. A 2009 analysis showed that smoking rates among Jewish men and women were 27.9 percent and 16.6 percent, respectively. Among Arab-Israelis, the corresponding rates were 48.8 percent and 5.2 percent. A 2017 article reported similar findings.

Charles Dunst/JTA contributed to this report.

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