Are you able to be allergic to hashish?
Allergies are not fun and affect millions of people around the world. There are some common allergens like grass, pollen, and dust – but what if you’re allergic to something less common, something you enjoy or that might be therapeutic for you? What if you were allergic to cannabis?
As unfortunate as that sounds, yes, you can be allergic to cannabis. As weeds become more prevalent around the world, reports of allergic reactions are also increasing. Budtenders and breeders, recreational users and medical patients have allergy symptoms after consuming cannabis. Does it have to do with the pollen? Is it just certain types? And what can you do if you are concerned?
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What are allergies?
Allergies are simply the body’s immune response to certain foreign substances. When you’re allergic to something, your immune system makes antibodies to a specific allergen that has been classified as harmful, although it may not necessarily be. Like peanuts, traces of which can cause severe reactions in some people, but peanuts are usually not a dangerous substance.
Allergic reactions vary from person to person and can range in severity from mild irritation to life-threatening reactions, typically anaphylaxis, which includes symptoms such as dizziness, chest tightness, and difficulty breathing.
Most allergies are not cured per se, but they change over time and in some cases may go away. Many people develop allergies as babies or children and eventually grow out of them. For example, it is very common for babies to have lactose allergies and leave them behind when they turn one year old.
Identification of cannabis allergens
When it comes to plant allergies, a person is allergic to certain compounds in or on the plant, not the entire plant itself. These can range from chemicals in the plant such as cannabinoids to external factors such as mold, which may not always be predominant.
Pollen – a powder released by trees, grasses, weeds and other plants – is the most common allergen in the world. Grains of cannabis pollen grains are very light and buoyant, allowing them to drift for miles, increasing their potential as a common irritant. Pollen is usually only produced by male cannabis plants or female plants that express hermaphroditic male flowers, although there are a few exceptions.
Then there is cannabis mold. Mold is a type of spore that grows on plants in less than ideal conditions. It usually grows on fallen leaves, old root stems, and some types of grass. Most molds grow in a humid atmosphere, but there are some types of molds in dry weather.
Now let’s talk about cannabinoids. Unfortunate as it is, there are reports that cannabinoids themselves are the cause of allergic reactions. A study published in 1971 identified cannabinoids as allergens based on positive skin prick test reactions in experimental patients. There was also a case where THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) was mentioned as an allergen in the case of a forensic lab technician who handled sinsemilla varieties of Cannabis Sativa and developed symptoms on the skin.
What are the symptoms of a cannabis allergy?
This is where things get interesting. Because cannabis can cause certain unpleasant side effects (dry eyes and mouth, excessive coughing, redness, etc.), some people mistake this for a cannabis allergy. I cannot emphasize enough that there is a real difference between the symptoms above and a real allergic reaction.
And it is worth noting again that there is a difference between an allergy to mold, which may have developed in poorly cured / stored plants, and an allergy to actual plant matter. Inhaling cannabis pollen has been documented to cause a range of symptoms, including allergic rhinitis, conjunctivitis, asthma, nasal congestion, pharyngeal pruritus (itchy throat), cough, wheezing, and shortness of breath (difficulty breathing).
What many people may find unexpected is that some cases of allergic skin irritation, hives, or urticaria (more precisely) have been linked to cannabis, both through consumption and handling of plants.
Cannabis has also been suggested as a contributing factor in a case of eosinophilic pneumonia in which symptoms began shortly after recreational use. However, since only one case has been documented, the jury is still undecided as to whether it is cannabis or pure circumstances.
Get a diagnosis
First things first, if you think you have an allergy of any kind and would like further tests, you will need to make an appointment with a licensed allergist. A diagnosis can sometimes be made by examining your symptoms. In most cases, however, a skin prick test is the procedure. (IgE).
An allergen-specific IgE blood test is done to check if a person is allergic to a certain substance. Since IgE antibodies are unique to each allergen, checking for specific variants in the blood can help determine if an allergy is present. The tests are non-invasive and give quick results.
Just because someone has a positive skin prick test to a specific allergen doesn’t necessarily mean they have negative reactions. Therefore, doctors need to compare skin test results with the time and place of a person’s symptoms to see if they match.
If the skin prick test is negative but an allergy is still suspected, an intradermal test can be performed, which goes just a little deeper into the skin. After one of these tests, the area is observed for about 15 minutes to see if there is any reaction. The more intense the local reaction, the greater the sensitivity to the allergen, of course.
The concept of cannabis allergies is relatively new and the minimal research shows that it is not a very common allergy. So this is good news! If you think you may have a cannabis allergy, speak to your doctor to find a solution. Unfortunately, when it comes to treatment options, there aren’t many.
Some people may use an antihistamine like Benadryl before they indulge themselves, others may need to change the products they use. Since cannabis pollen is the leading cause of many allergic episodes, people have been lucky enough to switch to concentrates. Be careful and patient as you try different methods to contain your allergic symptoms.
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