Marijuana Allergy: Signs, Causes, and Diagnosis

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Marijuana is a widely known drug. It can be recreational or medicinal. Many users consume weed for recreational use as its psychoactive component THC or tetrahydrocannabinol can make a user as high as a flute. But when weed has more CBD, weed’s therapeutic component, you can use this to help deal with medical conditions. But do you know that despite its popularity, there is a thing called marijuana allergy? 

Yes, despite having a lot of medical and therapeutic benefits, marijuana is also considered as an allergen. Marijuana can start an allergy which is similar to pollen.

Symptoms of marijuana allergy 

If you think that you are allergic to marijuana then we recommend that you consult your doctor. Allergic symptoms happen when you smoke cannabis, you inhaled second-hand smoke, you ingested weed edibles, you inhaled pollen from marijuana plants, you are exposed to the plant especially the buds. For smokers with cannabis allergies, the most common symptoms include:

  • Watery eyes
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Hay fever symptoms
  • Sneezing
  • Nasal congestion 
  • Vomiting and nausea

Sometimes the symptoms of cannabis allergy are similar to the symptoms of contact dermatitis. When you hold the plant or tamper with it, you can develop symptoms like itchiness, hives, inflamed red skin, and scaly, dry skin. A study made in 2007 to evaluate marijuana allergy used a skin prick test to stimulate a specific skin reaction.  

Participants of the test showed signs of skin irritation including red skin, itchiness, dry skin, and hives. In severe allergies to weed, a person can suffer from anaphylactic shock. This is a dangerous, life-threatening condition which drops your blood pressure and blood pressure to drop. And if marijuana allergy is overlooked, it can become fatal.  

Causes and risks of developing cannabis allergies

The body considers allergens like cannabis as a dangerous threat. The immune system works hard to protect the body against allergens. However, some factors can increase your chances of developing allergies.

Cross-reactivity

Allergen cross-reactivity is one of the factors that can make you more susceptible to marijuana allergy or not. You are more susceptible to developing marijuana allergies if you are allergic to a substance or food that contains the same proteins.

Just some of the most common foods we have at home have the same allergen properties as the marijuana plant are tomatoes, apples, bananas, peaches, almonds, grapefruit, eggplant, and chestnuts. If you have other common food allergies like nuts, eggs, milk, and spice allergies then it’s best to take cannabis moderately or try microdosing to find out if you can deal with marijuana effects.

Increased THC levels

The marijuana plant is a dioecious plant which means that it can be male or female. Growers need female plants because these will grow delicious weed that will produce recreational or therapeutic effects. Usually, male plants are destroyed to avoid accidental pollination. When males are overlooked, your flowers can grow seeds instead of weed. 

And the more buds a cannabis plant grows, the more it produces THC. Isolating the female cannabis plant will control the plant’s production of THC. And when weed is grown in bulk, the levels of THC will soar and this will eventually affect a person’s sensitivity to marijuana. 

Sensitization

In some cases, increased exposure to cannabis may also cause sensitivity to the marijuana plant. This is very common in places where the marijuana plant is cultivated. The pollen from the marijuana plant can stimulate allergic symptoms. 

It’s also noted that marijuana sensitization cases have increased since it was legalized in many states in the US and different countries. 

How to diagnose marijuana allergy

Just like diagnosing different illnesses, you must consult a doctor if you suspect marijuana allergy. The doctor or medical expert on allergies is called an allergist. He will diagnose marijuana allergy by using a test called a prick test. 

A skin prick test is a simple test that will tell the doctor if you are allergic to a substance or not. He will prick your skin usually the skin at the back of your arm or your back. The needle that he will use contains a very small amount of the cannabis allergen. One he has pricked your skin, he will check for any specific allergy responses after 15 to 20 min. 

If you are allergic to marijuana, the area where you were pricked will show symptoms like redness, swelling, and itching. If you don’t have marijuana allergies, there will be no signs or symptoms in the area.

Some doctors will double-check and use a specific blood test to check for any antigens in your blood. An immunoCAP test is very common in checking for allergies and so are ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay test) and the RAST (radioallergosorbent) test. 

The mentioned blood tests are very effective in checking for antibodies that are very specific in looking for a particular antibody for a particular antigen. Blood tests are safer since it reduces a patient’s risk of suffering from severe allergies. But the only problem with using tests for allergy confirmation is that it can take days to get the results. With skin testing, it will only take 30 minutes to find out the results.

Also, blood tests to check for antigens are very expensive while skin allergy testing may only cost pennies. Not all medical clinics or hospitals may offer this kind of allergy testing while a skin prick test is always available. 

The skin prick test is also a test used to check for a patient’s sensitivity to antibiotics. A small amount is injected into the subcutaneous layer of the skin until a wheal is created. This area is skin along the inside part of the arm or the back. And similar to cannabis sensitivity tests, developing redness, itching, and swelling in the area indicates that the person is allergic to the drug. Negative symptoms would mean that it’s okay to administer the medication since the person is not sensitive to its components.

Preventing marijuana allergies

The only way to prevent allergies from marijuana is to avoid taking it. If you suddenly develop allergic symptoms after taking cannabis for years or smoking weed recreationally then you need to avoid weed from now on or else suffer from intense allergic reactions.

If you are working in a cannabis growing or manufacturing plant, you should wear a long-sleeved shirt, gloves, and masks to protect your body. You may also take allergy medications if you can’t help to work close to cannabis plants.

In some cases, you may need an inhaler to help you breathe easier if you accidentally inhale cannabis pollen. If you have severe allergies don’t risk it. You may need to find work elsewhere or if you cultivate cannabis, get someone to help you grow your weed.

Some important tips to deal with marijuana allergies

When it comes to treatment for a sudden attack of marijuana allergies, visit your doctor at once. If you overlook treatment, you could end up suffering from extreme allergy effects which include severe difficulty in breathing and chest heaviness. Every second count!

If you develop a rash, hives, itching, and redness on your skin after you encounter pollen, stay away from cannabis plants ASAP. Use a cold compress on the area to reduce itching, irritation, and inflammation. Use corticosteroid cream to ease inflammation symptoms. Avoid scratching the area or applying any other treatment to avoid worsening your condition.

If the irritation does not subside, take diphenhydramine Hcl capsule, an OTC medication for acute allergies and irritation. For mild allergies to weed with symptoms like slight swelling, redness, and itching, diphenhydramine can help but for severe allergies, you need to visit your doctor right after taking the medication. One dose of diphenhydramine will take effect in 10 to 15 minutes. Relief can happen right after but in worse conditions, you may need to wait an hour for all the allergy symptoms to subside. 

For allergies with breathing problems, shortness of breath, and excessive coughing due to inhaling fumes from vaping or smoke due to smoking cannabis, stop ingesting, smoking or vaping at once. Go outside, take a breath of fresh air, and just relax. If you still have tightness of breath, consult your doctor at once.

Some allergic reactions may have digestive problems or symptoms like nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. If these happen, discontinue taking weed. It can take a long time for THC and CBD to be removed from your system but you can speed it up by using simple remedies. 

Drink a fatty drink like milk or eat fatty foods like yogurt, butter, and cheeses. THC tends to bind to fat and this allows THC to be metabolized faster. Detox from weed by sleeping and staying hydrated. You will soon be free from the allergic effects of marijuana when you follow these simple techniques.  

Marijuana allergy is a serious condition. You should never overlook any symptoms that may present as allergies to weed. If symptoms do not subside using first aid, visit a doctor at once. 

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