Two young men hospitalized after prolonged use of gas in whipped cream dispensers

Two young men were recently admitted to Hillel Yaffe Medical Center's Neurology Department with extreme weakness and loss of sensation in their limbs, which turned out to be the devastating effects of inhaling the gas contained in whipped cream dispensers. Dr. Adi Hersalis-Eldar, a senior physician in the department said, “The gas in whipped cream dispensers is actually laughing gas (nitrous oxide) and uncontrolled use may lead to permanent harm”

Just two weeks apart, two young men in their 20s and 30s were admitted to the Neurology Department at Hillel Yaffe due to complaints of extreme weakness in their limbs. In the first case, a man in his 30s came in with weakness in his limbs that had progressed over a week. He was brought into the Emergency Room in a wheelchair, because he was unable to walk on his own. We initially suspected Guillain-Barre syndrome, an autoimmune disease that affects the peripheral nervous system,” said Dr. Adi Hersalis-Eldar, a senior physician in the department, “But after that was ruled out, we continued performing a series of tests, including an MRI, which demonstrated unusual nerve damage in the spine, and a very significant vitamin B12 deficiency. After further investigation to understand the source of the deficiency, the patient said that he would regularly inhale the gas in whipped cream dispensers. He began receiving specific treatment, and there has currently been improvement in mobility and sensation, and he is scheduled for transfer to the Rehabilitation Department.  


Two weeks after this case, a young man in his 20s came to the hospital after having suffered from fatigue for several months, sensory disturbance in his upper and lower limbs, issues with stability and an inability to grip things. After investigation, we also saw that he had damage to his spinal cord and peripheral nerves, including a significant vitamin B deficiency. When questioned, he said that he, too, inhaled gas from whipped cream dispensers from time to time.  


“He began receiving an infusion of B12 and physical therapy for rehabilitation even in the department,” said Dr. Hersalis-Eldar. “His condition has also improved, but he still has a long road ahead of him, because we still can‘t say for certain whether the harm is temporary or permanent.”  


The two men related that they were unaware of the devastating consequences of inhaling the gas from whipped cream dispensers, and that this is very common at social events. “I think a warning needs to be issued to the public and definitely to young people my age, because it's something that everyone knows. I wasn't aware that it was dangerous and problematic and could ruin my life,” said the 20-year-old.  


Dr. Hersalis-Eldar explains that there are reports of similar cases in the medical literature, which strengthen the assumption that inhalation of nitrous oxide impairs function and causes a vitamin B deficiency, and as a result may lead to neurological damage.  


Dr. Hersalis-Eldar also wants to warn the public, and particularly parents, whose children will be on summer vacation soon. “The gas inside the whipped cream dispensers is actually laughing gas, which is sold in stores without any restrictions. Uncontrolled use can cause irreversible harm to the body, even disability. We reported these cases to the Ministry of Health, but it's important for us to warn the public of the risks of inhaling the gas.”  


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