Lately, the medical use of cannabis is spreading far and wide, and people are finding out the massive range of benefits of the wholesome plant. However, each person has a unique experience with cannabis, and because the plant and product choices are so diverse, it’s hard to tell new cannabis users what to expect. Cannabis and cannabidiol are sometimes linked to adverse reactions and side effects, which is why more and more people are concerned about the way cannabis could affect them. Among common concerns are the possibility of overdosing, drug interactions, and the potential for allergic reaction.
Though it is rare, users should be aware of the possibility of these reactions so that they can react accordingly when needed. One concern that has been coming up more and more often is of cannabis allergies, which many people don’t quite understand. Can you be allergic to cannabis? If so, what is a cannabis allergy even like? Is it dangerous? These are all important questions to ask, whether you’re brand new to the weed smoking world or an experienced vet.
Is it Possible to Be Allergic to Weed?
To be short, yes, you can be allergic to weed. It makes sense when you think about it from an average, real-world perspective. Cannabis is a plant that flowers. The flowers and the rest of the plant produce pollen and other plant materials, like nearly all plants, which can be potential allergens. This pollen and plant matter can be released into the air around live plants or new trimmings, but there are other ways that cannabis allergens can be introduced to the body. You may also come in contact with possible allergens when cannabis is touched, used topically, smoked, or eaten.
Like most allergies, the signs of an allergic reaction to medial cannabis vary greatly. The symptoms can also range greatly in severity, from a slight itch to potentially life-threatening reactions (though no one has ever reportedly died from cannabis allergies). Understanding the potential of an allergic reaction to medical cannabis, how it can manifest, and what you should do is the best first step to using cannabis responsibly and safely.
How is a Cannabis Allergy Diagnosed?
Like other allergies, cannabis allergies need to be diagnosed by a doctor. While you may experience the allergic reaction to cannabis on your own, you’ll need to have a doctor run one of multiple blood or skin tests to identify a cannabis allergy. These tests are generally simple and can be done in office by appointment, though you may have to wait on the results. The tests are generally pretty accurate, and although cannabis allergy is very rare, they will be able to identify whether or not you are allergic to any cannabis-related substances.
Cannabis has possible allergens, or proteins, that are found in other plants, including many plants that are typically used as food sources. Consistent exposure to allergen proteins can increase the risk of forming allergies, and being allergic to any of these substances in other plants may mean that you’re likely to have a cannabis allergy as well. This is called cross-reactivity. Some food items that have similar allergen proteins include:
Of course, there are multiple possible proteins in many of these foods that could be the potential cause of an allergic reaction. That means that being allergic to one or more of the items listed does not necessarily ensure that you have an allergy to cannabis proteins. The cross-reactivity works both ways, as long term exposure to the potential allergens in cannabis can increase your potential for developing an allergy to one of the foods listed above. The only way to know for sure which allergens you’re allergic to is to have the proper testing done by your physician.
Typical Signs of Allergic Reaction
Cannabis allergies are diverse, and each person will experience allergic reactions (to anything, not just cannabis) with unique symptoms and severity. However, the potential signs of an allergic reaction to cannabis are similar to the signs of an allergic reaction to other substances. Signs will often present pretty quickly after using or coming in contact with cannabis but may take longer to present with cannabis edibles, which can take up to 2 hours to digest and take effect. Some symptoms of an allergic reaction to cannabis could include:
- a dry cough
- itchy eyes
- red, itchy, or watery eyes
- a runny nose or sneezing
- sore, inflamed, swollen, or itchy throat or tongue
- blisters, dry skin, hives, inflamed skin, extreme itching near exposure site
- difficulty breathing
- dizziness, fainting, or low blood pressure
- weak and rapid pulse
- vomiting or upset stomach
The most severe risk associated with an allergy to cannabis is the risk of anaphylaxis, the allergic reaction most commonly associated with severe allergies to bee stings or peanuts. Anaphylaxis occurs within minutes of exposure and will cause difficulty breathing, as well as other life-threatening symptoms, and should be taken seriously.
If any of the listed reactions occur and are severe, you should seek immediate medical attention. Not all allergic reactions to cannabis are severe at all, and some can be very mild. Knowing what to do when faced with an allergic reaction can help keep you and those around you safe.
Preventing and Treating Cannabis Allergies
Since cannabis allergies are very rare, there, unfortunately, is no pharmaceutical treatment for an allergic reaction to the plant. Many people use antihistamines to manage a variety of the potential symptoms of an allergic reaction, and they may also help to manage allergies related to cannabis, too. Additionally, the only way to prevent an allergic reaction to cannabis is to avoid all exposure to the plant. Those who need to be around the plant (like those who work with it) could wear protective clothing, gloves, or a mask to avoid exposure.
Anyone who is planning to start using medical cannabis should be aware of the potential for an allergic reaction, even though the risk is low. Incorporating cannabis slowly is a great way to get a feel for how your body will react before taking large doses, which could make the allergic reaction if any, much milder. Using too much cannabis can result in negative reactions, even if no allergy is present.
What Should You Do If You Think You’re Allergic to Medical Cannabis?
If you are faced with any of these allergy symptoms or another adverse reaction after being exposed to cannabis, you may need to seek medical assistance. If the reactions are severe, debilitating, painful, or otherwise disru[t your ability to carry out regular tasks, seek immediate medical assistance. For slight reactions, you should discontinue cannabis use until you have the chance to talk to your doctor. He or she will be able to run the proper tests to either confirm or rule out cannabis allergy, so you can make adjustments to your medical cannabis routine accordingly.