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A Guide to Cannabis Allergies and Symptoms

  • Cannabis allergies are uncommon, but not unheard of. They can cause mild to severe reactions that may occur the first time you use cannabis or later in time with repeated use.
  • Symptoms will depend on how you interact with cannabis—by touching, inhaling, or ingesting it. Symptoms range from asthma and cold-like symptoms to skin and digestive issues.
  • A doctor can diagnose a cannabis allergy with a skin or blood test, though testing is not standardized for cannabis allergies. You can manage an allergy by taking medication, but if symptoms are severe, speak with a healthcare professional for other options.

Most plants, foods, and medications contain substances that can trigger allergy symptoms—anything from pollen, to peaches, to penicillin. You can add cannabis to that list, too.

Cannabis allergy symptoms depend on how you come into contact with the plant itself or its derivatives, whether via skin contact, inhalation, or ingestion. Common reactions include itching, swelling, cold and asthma symptoms, and digestive issues.

While rare—affecting roughly 1% of the population—cannabis allergies can cause adverse reactions that require lifestyle changes. In extreme cases, allergic reactions may need immediate medical attention.

If you’re a medical marijuana patient and suspect you may have a cannabis allergy, TeleLeaf is here to offer you actionable guidance for navigating your treatment options.

What Is a Cannabis Allergy?

Allergies describe certain people’s reactions to substances known as allergens. Cannabis contains four of them.

Even though cannabis allergens have zero effect on the majority of cannabis users, they can potentially kickstart an immune response—one that isn’t all that helpful.

For some people, being exposed to cannabis allergens causes the body to release immunoglobulin E (IgE), which then tells the body to release histamine, which in turn sets off all those classic allergy symptoms.

Allergies are fickle and unpredictable. You may experience symptoms the first time you use cannabis, but it’s just as likely that you only develop symptoms after repeated use.

There’s no way to truly know if you have a cannabis allergy without observing your reaction or seeing a professional allergist. There’s one way to make an educated guess, though: cross-reactivity.

Certain foods share some of the same allergen compounds. The theory is that if you’re allergic to one of these compounds, you’re more likely to be allergic—cross-reactive—to any food containing it. The same goes for cannabis and other foods.

If you have an existing allergy to one of these foods, you may be at a greater risk of having a cannabis allergy, too:

  • Almonds
  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Chestnuts
  • Eggplant
  • Grapefruit
  • Peaches
  • Tomatoes

Cannabis Allergy Symptoms

Cannabis allergies closely resemble pollen allergies. If you’re prone to a perpetually runny nose and itchy, eye-watering discomfort during the spring months, then you’re already familiar with most of the symptoms of a cannabis allergy.

The biggest factor that will determine your reaction to a cannabis allergy is how you come into contact with it. Ingesting a cannabis edible will trigger different symptoms than if you touch cannabis flower.

If cannabis comes into contact with your skin and you have an allergy, it may cause:

  • Redness
  • Dry, scaly, or itchy skin
  • Rash or hives

You could also have an allergic reaction to inhaling cannabis pollen or smoke.

This situation often produces asthma or cold-like symptoms, which can include:

  • Wheezing, coughing, or difficulty breathing
  • Sore throat
  • Stuffy nose
  • Irritated eyes
  • General itchiness

Finally, you can have an allergic reaction from ingesting cannabis, like edibles or oils.

In addition to some of the inhalation symptoms, you may experience:

  • Swelling
  • Stomach pain or discomfort
  • Diarrhea

Cannabis allergy symptoms range in intensity. Most people will only experience mild sensitivity and discomfort; while very uncommon, a severe cannabis allergy is possible. For people with severe cannabis allergies, any contact with cannabis can trigger an extreme allergic reaction called anaphylaxis, which requires medical attention.

Signs of anaphylaxis include:

  • Severe difficulty breathing with rapid, shallow, and wheezing breaths
  • Swollen face and airways
  • Sudden drop in blood pressure
  • Fast and irregular heartbeats
  • Extreme diarrhea
  • Lightheadedness or fainting
  • Feelings of anxiety or dread

Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening condition; please seek emergency help immediately if you ever experience these symptoms.

Diagnosing Cannabis Allergies

Doctors can diagnose most common allergies with either a skin test or a blood test. Testing doesn’t always provide a foolproof answer—there’s a chance that you receive a false positive or false negative—but it’s still the most definitive way to diagnose allergies.

Popular examples include:

  • Skin prick tests – To see if you react to an allergen, your doctor will prick a section of your skin with a small needle that contains the allergen you’re testing for. You’ll experience symptoms within 15 to 20 minutes if you’re allergic to it.
  • Patch tests – Patch tests are less invasive than skin prick tests, but they take longer to develop and give you results—about two days, give or take. In this test, your doctor will secure an allergen-coated adhesive patch to your skin to see if it causes a reaction.
  • RAST tests – If you and your doctor are worried about having a severe allergic reaction to a skin test, you can test your blood with a RAST test. Your doctor will mix an allergen into a sample of your blood, then wait to see if the IgE levels change.

Doctors can also diagnose cannabis allergies with these tests. But, while there are standardized testing methods for common allergies like tree nuts and shellfish, there are currently no such standards for cannabis allergy tests. Instead, your doctor can mix up their own cannabis allergen concoction for testing.

Hopefully, as cannabis use becomes more accessible and accepted, doctors will develop standardized procedures for cannabis allergy testing.

Overcoming Cannabis Allergies

Now, ideally, if you have a cannabis allergy, you should avoid using it or coming into contact with it. But if you’re a medical marijuana patient who relies on cannabis for treatment, that’s less than desirable.

You can try to manage cannabis sensitivities and allergies in a few different ways:

  • Take allergy medication – People with allergies often take over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications to treat symptoms. You can use these medications for a cannabis allergy, too. Both antihistamines and decongestants can make good work of mild allergy symptoms.
  • Ventilate your space – Cannabis smoke is a strong irritant, allergy or not. Consider smoking cannabis outside, or open your windows and run fans to air out your space.
  • Properly store your cannabis – When cannabis is stored incorrectly, it can allow mold, another common allergen, to grow. Be sure to keep your supply in an airtight container and store it in a cool, dark, dry place to keep it fresh and as allergen-free as possible.

If you’re one of the rare few who has a severe cannabis allergy, these methods unfortunately will not be enough to protect you from harm. In case of emergencies, be sure to carry an epinephrine auto-injector (EpiPen) with you at all times.

Some experts believe that as cannabis use rises, so will the prevalence of cannabis allergies. If you’re currently dealing with a cannabis allergy, or worry that you’ll develop one, don’t lose hope—you still have options.

When To Seek Medical Help

If you’re using medical cannabis to treat a condition that significantly impacts your daily life, you may be happy to put up with a little itchiness or congestion. It can be a small price to pay for holistic pain relief, better sleep, or a calmer mind.

But if your cannabis allergy outweighs the therapeutic benefits of consuming cannabis, talk to your medical marijuana doctor to go over your symptom management options.

And remember, if you ever have a severe allergic reaction to cannabis, call emergency services immediately.

TeleLeaf: Your Virtual Guide to Medical Cannabis

Don’t let the small possibility of a cannabis allergy hold you back from pursuing a medical marijuana card. Learn more about the powerful potential of cannabis and how you can start healing today.

The best online medical marijuana card service needs to offer speed and convenience as well as experienced, compassionate medical care. TeleLeaf has all this and more.

Once you’ve received your medical marijuana recommendation from one of our state-licensed providers, you’ll gain immediate access to dispensaries and their products. You’ll also stay connected to our network of clinicians who can provide you with personalized advice on all things cannabis, including cannabis allergies.

Schedule your appointment now or chat with one of our dedicated team members for more.


Sources:

Verywell Health. Can You Be Allergic to Weed?
https://www.verywellhealth.com/could-i-have-a-marijuana-allergy-1132480

Healthline. Allergic to Marijuana.
https://www.healthline.com/health/allergic-to-marijuana

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