Is it possible to be allergic to cannabis?
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It sounds like it might be heresy – or fake news. But in fact, people can be allergic to cannabis. Largely unknown even a few years ago, cannabis allergies are beginning to be recognized. There are several different ways people can be allergic.
According to a recent study in Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, exposure to proteins in the plant can trigger an abnormal immune response.
A 2012 study in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology also had interesting findings. 17 individuals were given skin prick exposure to cannabis extract. All of them developed adverse skin reactions (rashes and hives). 15 also experienced runny noses and sneezing.
Of course this is highly ironic. Cannabis itself is an anti-inflammatory for most people. However, quite a few people are just allergic to weed.
WHAT ARE THE CAUSES AND SYMPTOMS?
In fact, itchy skin and red eyes are the most common reactions. More serious symptoms include anaphylactic shock. That can be deadly. Most common cannabis allergies however, are similar to pollen allergies. In fact, people most allergic to cannabis usually are sensitive to plants like rag- or pigweed too. There also appears to be a link between cannabis allergies and food allergies.
ANOTHER POTENTIAL CULPRIT
Several studies have identified another potential culprit. It is a very specific kind of protein known as a lipid transfer protein or LTP. This LTP is also frequently associated with allergies. One study published in 2007 found an LTP they dubbed Can S3. In at least one subsequent skin prick test study, patients have shown specific sensitivity to same.
In fact, cannabis allergies are similar to contact dermatitis. The condition is most common in individuals with direct and regular contact with the plant. Such individuals frequently report itchiness and red skin. Eyes can become red and inflamed.
Cannabis allergies can also cause respiratory distress. Symptoms include inflammation of the airways, sneezing and in some cases, even nausea and vomiting.
WHAT ELSE COULD IT BE?
There are also other theories about why certain individuals are “allergic to cannabis”. This includes sensitivities to the chemicals used during the growing process. Of course this is also a real issue. However, this is an easier problem to solve. Just consume only organic weed.
The other popular theory right now is, that people are also allergic to the mold that can grow on improperly cured cannabis.
HOW TO COMBAT SYMPTOMS
The easiest way to treat a cannabis allergy is to stay away from it. If you suspect you are allergic, see an allergist to confirm, that you are. Most allergies can in fact be treated by desensitizing patients to the allergen. Unfortunately, right now at least, there is no allergy shot for cannabis.
WHO IS PRONE TO ALLERGIC REACTIONS?
The people at highest risk to cannabis allergens are those who have high exposure. This means growers, processors and testers. If your job is on the line, just prepare yourself. Wear masks, gloves, goggles and have a ready supply of antihistamines and inhalers around just to be safe.
If you are seriously allergic, however, and work closely with the plant, it is important to consider alternatives. Perhaps your career path in the green rush might need to take another route.
- ^ Annallergy, Cannabis sativa the unconventional weed allergen, retrieved January-16-2019
- ^ NCBI, Characterization of Cannabis sativa allergens, retrieved January-16-2019
- ^ NCBI, Sensitization to Cannabis sativa caused by a novel allergenic lipid transfer protein, Can s 3., retrieved January-16-2019