What Is A Marijuana Allergy?
A marijuana allergy is an adverse immune response to marijuana. Breathing or inhaling marijuana can result in nasal or eye allergy symptoms in some individuals. There have also been a small number of anaphylaxis cases due to marijuana. In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of reports of marijuana allergy.
Cannabis users can also experience Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS). CHS is a condition that leads to repeated and severe bouts of vomiting. The condition only occurs in daily long-term users of marijuana. It is rare, but you should be cautious when using marijuana long-term.
According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI), a person can develop an allergy or allergic sensitization to marijuana after their first exposure to the plant. This can be inhaling, smoking, touching, or eating marijuana. The main risks linked to a marijuana allergy are linked to cross-reactivity with other allergens. Cross-reactivity happens when the proteins, such as pollen, in the marijuana plant resemble the proteins in another plant. An allergic reaction may then occur when a person comes into contact with similar proteins elsewhere.
Foods with proteins that resemble marijuana proteins include:
If you are allergic to any of the above foods, be cautious around marijuana plants.
Marijuana Allergy Symptoms
- Asthma symptoms such as wheezing
- Itchy eyes
- Swelling of the eyes
- Nasal symptoms such as sneezing
- Low blood pressure
- In rare cases, anaphylaxis
Symptoms of a marijuana allergy can range from mild to severe. Most marijuana allergy symptoms occur immediately in adults; however, they can be delayed for hours. Adults with a marijuana allergy usually show symptoms days after first being exposed to cannabis. While it is rare, it is possible to experience anaphylaxis after exposure to marijuana. It’s important to recognize your symptoms and seek medical attention immediately if you suspect a severe allergic reaction.
Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome Symptoms
CHS symptoms are broken down into 3 stages: the prodromal phase, the hyperemetic phase, and the recovery phase. During the prodromal phase, patients may experience nausea and abdominal pain. This phase may last months or years.
During the hyperemetic phase, symptoms may include:
- Ongoing nausea
- Repeated episodes of vomiting
- Belly pain
- Decreased food intake and weight loss
- Symptoms of fluid loss (dehydration)
Vomiting becomes more intense during the hyperemetic phase. This will continue until the patient completely stops using marijuana and enters the recovery phase.
The recovery phase eases symptoms, but they may come back when the individual starts using again.
Marijuana Allergy Diagnosis
Since marijuana is not legal in most U.S. states, it is very difficult to diagnose this allergy in a clinical setting. In states where the plant is legal, it may be possible to complete provocation testing. This involves being exposed to the plant and treating any symptoms that arise in an approved office. An allergist can also apply a small amount of the plant to the skin to see if there is a reaction. With the increased use of marijuana by industry, medicine, and the general population as well as legalization there are hopes of more available testing in the future.
Marijuana Allergy Treatment
Currently, there isn’t a clinical treatment for marijuana allergy. If you’re allergic to marijuana, the best treatment is avoidance. You may also need to avoid CBD products to reduce your risk of experiencing an allergic reaction. If you require marijuana for medical reasons, ask your doctor for alternative options. For mild allergic reactions, ask an allergist for medications to soothe your symptoms.
Since there have been reports of anaphylaxis with marijuana allergy, you may need an epinephrine auto-injector. You should carry your EpiPen or Auvi-Q to treat symptoms related to anaphylaxis. At NY Allergy & Sinus Centers, we offer epinephrine prescriptions and training on how to administer the injection. You should also train your friends and family how to administer the medication in case you can’t do it yourself. Keep other allergy medications on hand as well for less severe symptoms.
Marijuana Allergy Frequently Asked Questions
Can I Be Allergic to Marijuana?￼
Marijuana allergy is becoming more common as the substance becomes legal in many states. If you experience nasal, eye, or throat irritation after exposure to marijuana, you could be allergic.
Can You Be Allergic to THC Edibles?￼
It is possible to have an allergic reaction after eating THC products. You may also have an allergy similar to other food allergies when ingesting marijuana-containing products, including rashes and swelling.
How Common Is Marijuana Allergy?￼
It's estimated that up to 10% of people may have an allergy to marijuana or THC. This number may increase as the plant approaches legalization and more reports become available.
How Is Marijuana Allergy Diagnosed?
The best way to diagnose a marijuana allergy is to perform a challenge in a safe setting with a trusted doctor.
How Is Marijuana Allergy Treated?￼
This isn’t currently a clinical treatment for marijuana. If you are allergic to this plant, you should avoid it to prevent an allergic reaction.
If I’m Allergic to Marijuana, Can I Take CBD Instead?￼
Many people allergic to marijuana are also allergic to CBD. Consult with your physician to determine if CBD is safe for you.
Is Marijuana Allergy Curable?￼
Marijuana allergy is not curable however, some individuals grow out of it throughout adulthood. Symptoms may become less severe over time.
Is Marijuana the Same As Cannabidiol (CBD)?￼
CBD is different from tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive substance in marijuana. Pure CBD does not have mind-altering effects. Only THC produces these effects.
Why Are People Allergic to Marijuana?￼
People are allergic to the proteins in marijuana. They also may be allergic to the pollen that marijuana creates.