A 20-year-old woman has developed carbon monoxide poisoning after spending one hour a day smoking tobacco though a Middle Eastern water pipe.
The incident forced doctors to warn that smoking the traditional pipes could be dangerous. They say the relaxed feeling associated with smoking the hookah may actually be the result of severe oxygen deprivation in the brain.
Hookah use is becoming increasingly common among young people with more than one in ten Arabic-speaking Australian adults are thought to use them.
Doctors at St Vincent's Hospital in Sydney said the woman had developed dizziness, nausea and lethargy when she was rushed to Sydney Hospital by ambulance, and eventually transferred to St Vincent's.
But after a few hours the situation got even worse when the woman started developing symptoms of a heart attack, said Louis Wang, a doctor at St Vincent's Hospital.
"Her ECG changed and it was consistent with someone having a heart attack. She didn't have chest pains, but the ECG changes suggested that not enough oxygen was being supplied to her muscle in an area of her heart," Dr. Wang said.
Dr. Wang said when she finally ended up in hospital she had a horrific concentration of carbon monoxide in her blood. "It was 25 per cent, when normal is about 1.5 per cent, although really you shouldn't have any," he said.
Dr Wang reported the case in the Medical Journal of Australia.