Marijuana Allergies Becoming Prevalent as More States Legalize

By Victoria Kim 03/10/15

Like most allergens, cannabis pollen can cause sneezing and inflammation of the nasal passages.

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Is it possible to be allergic to marijuana? According to a new study, pot smokers can suffer sneezing and watery eyes from cannabis pollen just like any other allergen.

Allergies to marijuana are not commonly reported, despite being the most widely used illicit drug in the world. But as more states legalize its recreational use, marijuana might become an increasingly relevant “weed” for the allergist, according to new research published last week in the journal Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

The recreational use of marijuana is now allowed in Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Alaska, and the District of Columbia. The study authors, allergy and immunology specialists Dr. Thad Ocampo and Dr. Tonya Rans, examined how exposure to the weed would affect people who are allergic to cannabis sativa.

Like most plant allergens, cannabis pollen can cause symptoms like allergic rhinitis—inflammation of the nasal passages accompanied by sneezing, congestion, itching and a runny nose—along with eye inflammation and asthma, the authors report. Other symptoms from a marijuana allergy include nasal congestion, sneezing, coughing, wheezing, bloodshot eyes, itchy throat, hives, and swelling around the eyes. These symptoms can be set off from exposure to marijuana smoke or by touching the plant.

The authors note that edible products can elicit an allergic response as well. One patient cited in the study suffered a serious reaction after eating seafood encrusted with hemp seed. After taking antihistamines and a shot of epinephrine, it was later confirmed through tests that it was indeed hemp seed that caused the allergic reaction, not the seafood.

The researchers recommend that doctors consider marijuana as a possible source of allergy symptoms when making a diagnosis, as more people are exposed to cannabis through marijuana and hemp cultivation or products.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr