Believe it or not, it’s possible to be allergic to marijuana.
Marijuana allergies are becoming more common today as increasing numbers of people use it for recreational and medicinal purposes. Indeed, studies show that certain individuals can experience an allergic reaction when exposed to parts of the cannabis plant.
But interesting enough, the fact that cannabis can be classified as an allergen wasn’t well known in the scientific community until recent years.
What is a cannabis allergy?
“I would say that our knowledge of marijuana as an allergen is still evolving,” says Dr. Lori Connors, an allergist with Halifax Allergy and Asthma Associates. “It’s something that’s starting to become clinically recognized, and something that we’re paying closer attention to, particularly as users of marijuana continue to increase in the general population.”
The most recent study into cannabis allergies was published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology in 2015. The study by Dr. Thad Ocampo et al. expanded on previous research by identifying specific proteins responsible for marijuana allergies. Namely, RuBisCo, luminal binding protein, and certain parts of ATP sythase.
Like other allergies such as hay fever, the study found that exposure to specific proteins found in cannabis could trigger an abnormal immune response in some individuals.
What are the symptoms?
A 2012 study published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology identified marijuana as an allergen by performing a case study. 17 patients were exposed to skin-prick tests using a marijuana extract. All of them developed adverse skin reactions like rashes and hives, while 15 also experienced runny nose and wheezing.
Those are common reactions in people who have a marijuana allergy. In more extreme cases, anaphylactic shock can occur and that can be very serious, even leading to death.
Overall though, marijuana allergies are very similar to pollen allergies and as it turns out, people with marijuana allergies are very likely to be allergic to other pollen producing plants as well, like ragweed or pigweed. There is also a link between marijuana allergies and food allergies.
Dr. Connors says, “It goes along with pollen allergies, and there are some individuals who have oral allergies, which are a cross reaction between a pollen and a food that someone is ingesting. It’s called a pollen-food allergy syndrome. It seems that those individuals seem to be the ones getting marijuana allergies.”
Dealing with cannabis allergies
So if you have a marijuana allergy, what should you do? It truly is a terrible affliction, but all you can do is avoid it. If you suspect that you’re allergic to weed, you should see an allergist and have testing done to make sure that you actually are.
Pollen allergies can be treated and eventually eliminated by desensitizing you to the allergen with a course of inoculations. Unfortunately though, there is no allergy shot for marijuana. Until medical science creates one you’ll just have to stay away from the stuff or suffer the consequences if you are allergic.
But you can take comfort in knowing that marijuana allergies are being discussed more often in the medical community. That can only mean that there’s an increasing interest in the condition. With any luck, a treatment might one day become a reality.