Dr. David Pompei, PharmD, MS
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. And while considerable confusion amongst patients and consumers exists about what is a side effect and what is an allergic reaction, a true allergic reaction is a medical emergency. If you think you might be allergic to cannabis, talk to your doctor. Before you do, read on for more information. .
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:
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.
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 other compounds in the cannabis plant, such as cannabidiol.
Allergy symptoms vary according to the way in which they are triggered:
The cannabis plant or its flowers may cause skin reactions for some people who are allergic to marijuana. The following symptoms may occur:
Furthermore the fragrant terpene linalool, the hallmark scent of the lavender plant found in some cannabis strains, can be irritating to some people’s skin, producing some of the same signs of redness and swelling that an allergic reaction can. If this is something you encounter, talk to a dermatologist or allergist.
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. (Another good reason for N95 masks in the greenhouse!) This type of reaction can cause the following symptoms:
Moldy marijuana leaves can also cause problems. Mold - a result of imperfect growing conditions - can grow on marijuana leaves, and if you breathe in the mold, you may have an allergic reaction.
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:
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 and is a medical emergency. If you are experiencing anaphylaxis, go to the nearest emergency room.
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:
As with other allergies, doctors diagnose THC allergies through skin tests or blood 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.
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.
Marijuana allergy does not currently have a treatment. However, to manage symptoms and ease discomfort, an individual may take antihistamines as for other mild allergies.
Because cannabis allergy treatments are limited, people who are allergic to cannabis should avoid it.
THC allergies are not very common, but they do occur. However, as more and more people start using cannabis, the number of people reporting 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.
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