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Cannabis Column | May 11, 2022

Can You Be Allergic to Cannabis?

A recent study has shown that some people may, in fact, be allergic to cannabis. While a bad reaction to weed is generally not life-threatening, it can still cause some uncomfortable symptoms. If you think you might be allergic to cannabis, read on for more information.

Can You Be Allergic to Weed?

An estimated 50 million Americans suffer from allergies, and some people have allergies aggravated by marijuana pollen.

After being exposed to cannabis, a person can develop an allergy or a sensitivity to the plant, as reported by the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI). Cannabis allergens may be transmitted in the following ways:

  • Airborne pollen inhalation
  • Marijuana smoking
  • touching marijuana
  • eating marijuana

The results of a small study published in 2018 indicate that people who are allergic to dust mites, cat dander, mold, or plants are more likely to have a cannabis allergy.

Marijuana Allergy Symptoms

Cannabis allergies share many of the same symptoms as other types of allergies. The symptoms of a marijuana allergy can vary from person to person, but they typically include sneezing, itchy eyes, and a runny nose. It's crucial to keep in mind that if you have a marijuana allergy, you also might have a hemp allergy. Additionally, you may be allergic to products that contain cannabidiol (CBD), another chemical found in the cannabis plant.

Allergy symptoms vary according to the way in which they are triggered:


Skin Contact

The cannabis plant or its flowers may cause skin reactions for some people who are allergic to marijuana. The following symptoms may occur:

  • Itching
  • Skin that is dry and scaly
  • Redness
  • Rash or hives


Airborne Contact

Some people are allergic to airborne marijuana pollen, just as they are allergic to other plants' pollen. Even secondhand marijuana smoke can cause an allergic reaction, as can dust from industrial hemp or marijuana processing. This type of reaction can cause the following symptoms:

  • Hay fever or rhinitis (itchy, runny nose)
  • Nasal congestion
  • Sore throat
  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Respiratory problems, such as asthma

Moldy marijuana leaves can also cause problems. Mold can grow on marijuana leaves, and if you breathe in the mold, you may have an allergic reaction.


After-Consumption Reactions

The popularity of cannabis-infused edibles has grown in tandem with the legalization of medical marijuana across the United States. Following the consumption of marijuana products, consumers may experience weed allergy symptoms such as:

  • Eye redness or swelling
  • Rash or hives
  • Skin swelling
  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty speaking


Anaphylaxis has been reported following the consumption of hemp seeds, but it is rare. However, this reaction results in a dangerous drop in blood pressure and breathing issues.

In addition to anaphylaxis, an allergy to marijuana can be correlated with cross-reactivity with other allergens. Pollen from the marijuana plant has a similar structure to pollen from other plants, thus causing cross-reactivity between them. 

Additionally, a person may develop an allergic reaction to weed if they had an allergic reaction previously to plant proteins that are like the proteins found in cannabis.

People with allergic reactions to cannabis may be allergic to certain proteins found in:

  • almonds
  • apples
  • bananas
  • chestnuts
  • eggplant
  • grapefruit
  • peaches
  • tomatoes


Diagnosis of a THC Allergy

As with other allergies, doctors diagnose THC allergies through skin tests or blood tests.


Skin tests

First, a doctor will examine the patient and obtain their medical history. A skin prick test may then be performed. It is a simple test, and results are available quickly.

An allergen, such as marijuana, will be applied with a needle to the skin's surface during a skin prick test. A person may be allergic to a substance if they develop a red bump or wheal, itching, and redness within 15 minutes of exposure.

A doctor can also perform intradermal tests. During this test, a diluted allergen is injected just below the skin's surface using a thin needle.


Blood tests

Testing for marijuana allergies can also be done via blood tests. Tests are performed on blood samples to determine whether antibodies to marijuana are present. The chance of someone being allergic to marijuana increases when there are more antibodies in the blood than expected.

Some people may prefer blood tests over skin prick tests because they use a single needle. These tests are also less likely to affect any medications taken at the time. These tests, however, are more expensive and take longer to get the results.


Treatment

Marijuana allergy does not currently have a treatment. However, to manage symptoms and ease discomfort, an individual can take antihistamines as for other mild allergies.

Because cannabis allergy treatments are limited, people who are allergic to cannabis should avoid it.


Is THC allergy common?

THC allergies are not very common, but they do occur. However, as more and more people start using cannabis, the number of people with this allergy may increase.

What should I do if I think I'm allergic to cannabis?

If you think you are experiencing an allergic reaction to weed, please consult a doctor.

Get Started on Your Cannabis Wellness Journey

Have you started your cannabis wellness journey? Jointly is a new cannabis wellness app that helps you discover purposeful cannabis consumption so you can achieve your wellness goals with cannabis and CBD. On the Jointly app, you can find new cannabis products, rate products based on how well they helped you achieve your goals, and track and optimize 15 factors that can impact your cannabis experience. These 15 factors include your dose, the environment in which you consume cannabis, who you are with when you ingest, how hydrated you are, the quality of your diet, how much sleep you got last night, and more. Download the Jointly app on the App Store or the Google Play Store to get started on your cannabis wellness journey.

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