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Can you be allergic to marijuana?

Marijuana is of course, a plant. And just like any other plants, people can be allergic to it. There has recently been an uptick in the number of people reporting marijuana allergies. Legalization around the world has a lot to do with this. As more people are accessing the plant, more are finding that in fact, it can trigger allergies. So, what causes these allergies? And is there anything those allergic can do about it so they can enjoy their marijuana without experiencing symptoms?

Causes

Causes of Marijuana allergyLike any other plant, it is the pollen that causes the allergy in some that use marijuana. People can be exposed to marijuana pollen by inhaling it when it’s in the air, or smoking, touching, or eating marijuana.

Also just like with other plants, any exposure to the plant can trigger an allergic reaction.

Symptoms 

The symptoms of a marijuana allergy are very similar to seasonal allergies. That is, those that come with flowers blooming in the spring or lawns being freshly-cut in the summer. Some of the most common symptoms of a marijuana allergy are:

• Dry cough
• Chest congestion
• Itchy, watery, or red eyes
• Nausea
• Runny nose
• Sneezing
• Sore, itchy, or scratchy throat

When marijuana is handled by someone allergic to it, it can also trigger contact dermatitis. This is a skin reaction that has its own set of symptoms. They include:

• Blisters
• Dry skin
• Hives
• Itchy skin
• Skin that is red and inflamed

These symptoms can present themselves as soon as marijuana is touched or inhaled. In other cases though, symptoms can take up to an hour or longer to appear.

Risks 

While the symptoms above are often quite minor and can be treated easily, marijuana can cause more severe allergic reactions. One of these is anaphylaxis shock. Anaphylaxis occurs when the body identifies something seemingly harmless as a threat. The body tries to fight that threat and instead, causes a life-threatening condition. The most common symptoms of anaphylaxis are:

• Difficulty breathing
• Dizziness
• Fainting
• Skin that is itchy, flushed, or pale
• Low blood pressure
• Swelling in the tongue or throat
• A pulse that is weak or rapid
• Vomiting

Anyone that suspects they are experiencing anaphylactic shock after using marijuana needs to get to the emergency room right away. Anaphylaxis can result in coma or death, so getting medical attention immediately is crucial.

Another risk that comes with a marijuana allergy is that it can be linked to cross-reactivity with other allergens. This happens when the pollen in marijuana mimics the pollen in other plants. When people are allergic to the pollen in another plant, they may also find they are allergic to marijuana.

The plants that have similar pollen to marijuana are:

• AlmondsTomatoe allergies are simmilar to marijuana ones
• Apples
• Bananas
• Chestnuts
• Eggplant
• Grapefruit
• Peaches
• Tomatoes

Those that are allergic to any of these foods should be especially careful if they are around marijuana.

Diagnosis 

Just as with other types of allergies, there are two main tests doctors will use to diagnose a marijuana allergy. These are skin tests and blood tests.

There are two ways a skin test can be done. One of the most common is the prick test. In this test, a doctor will prick the skin with a small needle. Then, a diluted allergen will be applied to the area that was pricked. In the case of a marijuana allergy, that diluted allergen will typically contain oil from the marijuana plant. If the area begins to swell, turn red, or start itching, it is likely the person is allergic to marijuana.

The second type of skin test is an intradermal test. In this test, a thin needle is used to inject the diluted allergen just below the skin’s surface. The same symptoms will be looked for to determine if there is an allergy present.

Blood tests can also be used to determine if a person is allergic to marijuana. In this test, a sample of blood will be taken. It is then tested to look for the presence of antibodies to marijuana. If the levels of antibodies are higher than normal, it will be determined that a person is allergic to marijuana.

Blood tests are typically more accurate than skin tests. However, they take longer for the test results to be returned. They are also more expensive.

Treatment 

Unfortunately, there is currently no treatment for a marijuana allergy. Antihistamines and over-the-counter allergy treatments can be taken to minimize the symptoms but these won’t cure or treat the actual allergy. These too, can only be taken if the allergy is mild, and not severe such as anaphylaxis shock.

Those who have severe reactions such as this should carry an Epipen or something similar in case they are accidentally exposed to the plant’s pollen.

Prevention 

Allergy prevention clothingUnfortunately, the only way to avoid triggering a marijuana allergy is to avoid exposure to the plant. This can be difficult, particularly if a person is using marijuana for medicinal purposes. When a person cannot avoid exposure, such as if it is in their home or they work in a marijuana processing plant, there are a few things they can do. They should take allergy medications, wear  face masks and gloves, and have inhalers on them in case the allergy causes problems with their breathing.

Conclusion 

Marijuana allergies are real, and they can cause real problems for those suffering from them. Anyone that suspects they have an allergy should speak to their doctor. A doctor will be able to determine if an allergy is present by performing certain tests. If it’s determined that an allergy is present, they will then be able to recommend treatments that can help. Sadly though, the only real way to not let an allergy get in your way, is to avoid exposure to it altogether.

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