Could I Be Allergic to Marijuana?

You Can Be Allergic to Weed in All of Its Forms

Marijuana joint & plant
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Could you have a marijuana allergy? Is it possible to be allergic to weed or pot? Whether you are new to medicinal marijuana or have used it in the past without problem, it is quite possible to have a marijuana allergy.

Marijuana Allergy Symptoms and Treatment

Many types of pollen from plants, such as ragweed, flowers, and trees, can cause allergic reactions in some people, and marijuana is no different.

Marijuana flowers produce pollen that can prove problematic for sensitive individuals, and it can affect the skin or respiratory system. It is also possible to have an allergic reaction to eating marijuana seeds or marijuana edibles.

Marijuana Allergy - Skin Symptoms

A marijuana allergy can cause skin problems if the plant or its flowers are handled. Symptoms of skin irritation might include:

  • itching
  • redness
  • rash or hives
  • dry, scaly skin

Marijuana Respiratory Allergy Symptoms

There is also some evidence that marijuana might be an airborne allergen, with individuals becoming sensitized after inhalation of marijuana pollen. They may also become sensitive to airborne hemp dust from industrial processing of the plant. Airborne allergy symptoms from marijuana are generally similar to the problems caused by any other airborne allergen, such as:

  • rhinitis or hay fever (itchy, runny nose)
  • nasal congestion

Allergic Reactions to Ingested Hemp Seed or Marijuana

Marijuana edibles have become more available for medicinal use as well as where they are legal for all users. While it is rare, there are reported cases of anaphylaxis reactions with eating hemp seeds.

The symptoms can include ocular symptoms, rash or hives, swelling, shortness of breath, and difficulty speaking.

You may also have an allergy similar to other food allergies when ingesting marijuana-containing products, including rashes and swelling. It may be that your body is allergic to other foods and is cross-reacting to marijuana, and vice versa. Allergies to tomatoes, peaches, bananas, citrus, grapefruit, eggplant, almonds, and chestnuts have been seen to cross-react with marijuana in various studies.

Diagnosis of Marijuana Allergy

Skin testing is the usual way an allergy specialist can pinpoint a marijuana allergy. However, the tests aren't standardized and there are legal limitations for getting the extracts needed to perform the test.  A blood serum test is only available from specialized laboratories. If these tests aren't available, your doctor would need to make the diagnosis based on your report of your exposure and symptoms.

Treatment for Marijuana Allergy

If you suspect you have developed a marijuana allergy, it is generally best to avoid the plant altogether.

This can be difficult if you are having ​airborne exposure that you have no control over. If you have been using marijuana for medicinal purposes, you might want to speak with your physician and seek professional medical advice. He or she might be able to suggest alternative treatment options for your condition and symptoms that won't cause allergic reactions.

If you are unable to avoid marijuana exposure, discuss with your doctor whether to use antihistamines or decongestants for symptoms such as a runny nose and red eyes.

With symptoms of an anaphylactic type of reaction, seek immediately emergency medical care. These reactions can be life-threatening and need to be treated fast. You may need to carry an Epi-pen in the future if you have this type of threatening reaction.

Sources:

Ocampo TL, Rans TS. Cannabis sativa: The unconventional “weed” allergen. Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. 2015;114(3):187–192. doi:10.1016/j.anai.2015.01.004.

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