Cannabis is well-known for its anti-inflammatory and other therapeutic benefits. It is possible, though, to experience or develop allergy-like symptoms. The answer to “can you be allergic to weed?” is, unfortunately, yes. But cannabis allergies do not necessarily mean that usage has to be halted. In this article, we will discuss the symptoms of cannabis allergies, how to know for sure if it is a marijuana allergy, and how to manage symptoms.
What Causes Marijuana Allergy?
According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI), it is possible to develop allergic sensitization or allergies to marijuana after exposure. Just as individuals can develop allergies to plants, household pets, and medications throughout their lifetime, the same is possible with exposure to cannabis at any time. Exposure includes: smoking, touching, and eating marijuana, as well as simply inhaling pollen in the air.
Reactions to marijuana are typically caused by pollen, smoke, or hempseed, although it is also possible to develop sensitivities and/or an allergic reaction to CBD oil, as well as a THC allergy.
Symptoms Of Marijuana Allergy
Symptoms of marijuana allergy can often be confused with seasonal allergies, hay fever, or cold symptoms. The main identifier is that the onset of symptoms immediately follows cannabis usage, within minutes to an hour or more. If you notice concerning symptoms and they occur whenever you come in contact with cannabis, it is best to halt the use of the substance.
Smoking Weed While Sick
Symptoms Of Respiratory Cannabis Allergies
If you think you might be allergic to weed, look out for the following symptoms after smoking:
- Red, watery, and/or itchy eyes
- Runny nose, sneezing, and/or congestion
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Dry cough
- Sore or itchy throat
- Hay-fever-like symptoms
Of course, it is important to also keep in mind that some of these symptoms are typical side effects of cannabis usage. For example, having red/dry eyes after smoking marijuana is far less concerning than serious nausea and vomiting.
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Stay In Your System
Symptoms Of Dermatological Cannabis Allergies
Allergic reactions to cannabis do not only occur when smoking the plant, but can also be apparent when it is handled. Physical exposure to marijuana can sometimes result in contact dermatitis, a red, itchy reaction often associated with fragrances, soaps, jewelry, and botanicals.
Symptoms of contact dermatitis caused by marijuana include:
- Red, inflamed skin
- Scaly, dry skin
- Hives and/or blisters
In rare cases, allergic reactions to cannabis can be even more severe and result in anaphylactic shock, a condition in which the airways close up. This is incredibly uncommon, but if left untreated, such a reaction could be fatal.
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Marijuana Allergy Risk Groups
The risk of marijuana allergy is relatively low. However, more cases are being reported as cannabis is destigmatized and legalized in more places. Those at risk for a weed allergy include individuals with asthma or other respiratory conditions, those with allergies to certain foods, and increased exposure to THC.
Cross-Reactivity Of Allergens
If you are allergic to any of the following foods, you are in a risk group for possibly developing marijuana allergies:
The reasoning here is that these foods have similar protein and allergen properties as the marijuana plant, causing a certain cross-reactivity. A study published in 2018 also shows a correlation between marijuana use and hypersensitivity to other allergens, such as molds, plants, dust mites, and cat dander.
Certain situations or conditions can increase a person’s marijuana sensitivity. Individuals living in areas where cannabis is grown are more likely to come in contact with pollen and other allergens from the plants, which can trigger symptoms. Understandably, it follows that marijuana sensitization has become more common since legalization. Those with asthma who are sensitive to cigarette smoke could also be triggered into a reaction or asthma attack when exposed to marijuana smoke (Allergy & Asthma Network).
Exposure To Increased Amounts Of THC
Over the years of careful cannabis cultivation, plants have been bred to have more THC than their ancestors. Strains that produce heavier harvests will produce more THC than others, especially when female plants are kept in isolation to prevent pollination. Higher concentrations of THC content can also affect an individual’s sensitivity to the plant. When exposed to increased amounts of THC, a person comes in contact with a higher concentration of allergens and is, thus, more likely to eventually develop an allergic reaction.
Risks Of Weed Allergy
Most symptoms of marijuana allergies are similar to hay fever or typical side effects of cannabis consumption. However, more serious symptoms can develop, especially for those already at risk. According to a research paper published in 2015, inhaling marijuana smoke “could cause a flare-up of asthma symptoms, allergic rhinitis or conjunctivitis.”
Allergic reactions can develop and worsen over time and can evolve in severity over multiple instances of contact. Medical News Today details the risks of developing a more severe allergic reaction. In incredibly rare cases, it is possible to develop anaphylaxis from marijuana exposure. In the case of a sudden drop in blood pressure, narrowing of the airways, and difficulty breathing, contact emergency services immediately.
Identifying Marijuana Allergy
The American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology gives a generalized overview of allergy testing. Typically, for possible marijuana allergies, two types of allergy tests can be done by a doctor: a skin test and a blood test. These tests can help to identify and possibly diagnose an allergy.
Skin Prick Test: Instant Results
A common test to identify allergies that an allergist will perform is the skin prick test. The doctor will use a small needle to prick the skin, usually on the arm or back, with a small amount of the allergen. After 15 to 20 minutes, it will be apparent if the person is allergic to the substance being tested. If you’re allergic, the body will react by swelling or itching at the prick site.
Blood Test: Safer, But More Expensive
The other type of allergy test is a blood test, generally considered the safer option because there is less of a risk of a severe allergic reaction. However, results take several days as opposed to minutes with a skin prick test. Healthline lists a few different types of blood tests that are used to test for allergies: the immunoCAP test, which is the most common, as well as the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and the radioallergosorbent (RAST) blood test. These blood tests look for antibodies in the bloodstream that are allergen-specific.
High CBD Seeds
Reducing Symptoms When You're Allergic To Weed
So, what can a person do to continue consuming marijuana despite an allergy? First of all, if the allergy is severe, it is better to halt consumption and contact with the plant for your own safety. If, however, the allergy is manageable, multiple precautions can be taken. When working with marijuana, wearing a mask, gloves, and taking antihistamines can help reduce or prevent symptoms completely. For asthmatic cannabis consumers, keeping an inhaler on hand is important in case the pollen takes a toll on breathing.
If the allergy seems to be caused by THC rather than the pollen or other airborne allergens, one can try low-THC high-CBD cannabis strains. By comparing THC strains to CBD strains, the user can determine if a specific cannabinoid is the cause of symptoms or not. Cannabis seeds of Buddha Medikit CBD produce CBD levels at an impressive 20% and THC levels under 1%, while CBD Auto Charlotte's Angel seeds have levels of 15% and <1% respectively. Either of these marijuana strains would be ideal for smokers who are sensitive to THC.
As of now, there is no specific treatment available for marijuana allergies. More research simply needs to be done to understand how to manage symptoms related to allergens in cannabis. However, over-the-counter antihistamines can abate generalized symptoms in the meantime.
Don’t Worry: Marijuana Allergies Are Manageable
If it turns out that you are allergic to marijuana, that does not mean that your relationship with cannabis has come to an end. You can still live with and enjoy weed, even with an allergy, as long as it is not severe or life-threatening. Most marijuana allergies are mild to moderate, similar to seasonal allergies. If you can handle hay fever, a marijuana allergy does not have to be life-changing.
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