While it is normal to cough after taking a big hit of your cannabis, some users report continuous coughing, wheezing, vomiting and rashes. Is this just bad bud, or something more serious, like an actual allergy?
As marijuana use becomes more mainstream, people are reporting allergy-like symptoms that are truly allergies.
“I walked in today and my nose immediately plugged up,” said Sam Calvert, owner of Green Star Cannabis, who says he has a severe cannabis allergy. “I smelled the Pineapple Express the other day and thought I had a cold for two days.”
Calvert has had allergies all his life but about four or five years ago noticed that they started to get much worse and affected his sinuses and lungs.
“I’m basically allergic to everything green,” he said.
Dr. Steven Kernerman of the Spokane Allergy & Asthma Clinic says allergies to pot aren’t that unusual, although most people’s aren’t so severe.
“It sounds obvious but marijuana is a weed and it produces pollen and people who have a tendency to seasonal allergies are going to be affected by it,” Kernerman said.
He treats more people for cannabis allergies who work in the industry vs. people who use marijuana recreationally or for medicinal purposes. The first group likely are seeking help because they are exposed to much higher amounts of cannabis on a regular basis.
These allergies usually manifest in one of two ways.
“Of my two most recent patients, one was having standard allergy symptoms: runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing,” he said. “The other, who was involved in handling the buds, had a contact reaction.”.
Contact reactions can include redness where the marijuana touched the body, or rashes, itching or swelling.
Kernerman suggests people with those types of reactions wear protective clothing or gloves while working with the product. For those who have symptoms more like hay fever, he says allergy medications may help.
“We would usually suggest to them taking an antihistamine,” he said.
Calvert, the owner of Green Star, says products like Nasacort sometimes work for him, but the older he gets, the more resistant his allergies seem to become. He has even become nauseous after long periods of exposure to the products he sells.
Kernerman says nausea or vomiting after marijuana exposure or use is fairly uncommon and is probably caused by other issues in most cases. Some may suspect their allergies can be caused by insecticides, fertilizers or impurities used in the production process, but Dr. Kernerman doesn’t feel like that is the culprit in the cases he has seen.
In Calvert’s situation, his physical struggle is his employees’ gain. Because of his allergies, Calvert is limited in how he can quality test the products he sells.
“I put everything under a microscope,” he said. After he does a very thorough physical examination, he has a product review form his employees fill out.
“I dole out the samples every Friday and send them home with my employees,” to fill out the form, he said.
Kernerman says he doesn’t get a lot of people coming to him for cannabis allergies, but he has seen more lately than before it was legal,
Calvert says he occasionally hears from a customer who had a reaction to a product containing marijuana. He has useful advice for them.
“I think people should take it more serious than I do… It’s extremely difficult to deal with. So I would say be careful. Start slow: buy a gram at a time, don’t buy an ounce,” he said. “They tell you to paint a corner first when painting a room so you know how it’s going to look, and I would say do the same thing, try just a little first and see how you react.”