Brighton consultant warns over laughing gas dangers

Nitrous Oxide Image copyright Yui Mok/PA
Image caption Nitrous oxide is sold in small canisters, which Dr Seddon's patient bought at a music festival

Young people should be aware of the dangers of inhaling nitrous oxide after an "explosion" in recreational use, researchers have warned.

Dr Paul Seddon, consultant at the Royal Alexandra Children's Hospital in Brighton, said nitrous oxide, known as laughing gas, posed a significant risk.

His research found 17 deaths were caused by the so-called legal high in the UK between 2006 and 2012.

The study began after he treated a teenage girl who had inhaled the gas.

Leak from lungs

The girl, who was suffering from pneumothorax - chest pain and painful breathing - admitted she had inhaled nitrous oxide.

"The young lady was a local teenager who was sold this at a festival and had an air leak from the lungs as a result of forcefully inhaling it," he said.

Dr Seddon found that 7.6% of 16-to-24-year-olds in England and Wales admitted having tried balloons of nitrous oxide, which he described as "widely available" in shops that sell legal highs.

"The gas can get into tiny air spaces and expand them," he said.

"The second problem is that long-term use can cause vitamin deficiencies and affect your nervous system."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Raheem Sterling was warned about his off-field behaviour

Dr Seddon is presenting his research at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Heath annual conference.

The gas can be used legitimately for pain relief in dentistry and labour, in engines to make them perform better and in aerosol cans to prevent food going off.

Small canisters are also used to make whipped cream.

"Clearly, the shops that sell legal highs are not selling it for use in confectionery," said Dr Seddon.

"It is something of a grey area, but there has certainly been an explosion in recreational use and is something that both paediatrics and the general public need to be aware of."

Earlier this month, Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish and Liverpool and England star Raheem Sterling were warned about their off-field behaviour after they were photographed apparently taking nitrous oxide.

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