Marijuana: The allergen you never knew existed
Growing up, you may have been given reasons for not smoking marijuana. What you may not have heard is that marijuana, like other pollen-bearing plants, is an allergen which can cause allergic responses. A new article published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, the scientific publication of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), summarizes research on the ways in which cannabis can act as an allergen. The article draws attention to allergic responses that may be unfamiliar to marijuana users. Included in the article is information on case reports regarding episodes of allergic reactions, hypersensitivity and even anaphylaxis (a severe allergic reaction) to cannabis in its various forms. Among other things, cannabis pollen or cannabis smoke exposure has resulted in symptoms of allergic rhinitis (hay fever) conjunctivitis and asthma.
Allergic asthma triggered by seasonal and occupational exposure to cannabis has also been reported.
The authors of the article point out that cannabis’ legal status may create barriers for accurate and clear patient reporting, and that legal limitations may pose diagnostic challenges. As with other allergens, the authors say that avoidance is recommended. Marijuana’s legal status in the United States is changing, making information about cannabis allergy timely and noteworthy. Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia currently have laws legalizing marijuana in some form, and four states have legalized marijuana for recreational use.
Title: Cannabis Sativa: The Unconventional “Weed” Allergen
Authors: Thad Ocampo, MD, ACAAI member and Tonya Rans, MD, Fellow, ACAAI
By the Numbers: According to ACAAI, allergies, including allergic rhinitis, affect an estimated 40 million to 50 million people in the United States. Some allergies may interfere with day-to-day activities or lessen the quality of life. Triggers of non-allergic rhinitis include irritants such as cigarette smoke, strong odors and fumes, including perfume, hair spray, and other cosmetics, laundry detergents, cleaning solutions, pool chlorine, car exhaust and other air pollution.
The ACAAI is a professional medical organization of more than 6,000 allergists-immunologists and allied health professionals, headquartered in Arlington Heights, Ill. The College fosters a culture of collaboration and congeniality in which its members work together and with others toward the common goals of patient care, education, advocacy and research. ACAAI allergists are board-certified physicians trained to diagnose allergies and asthma, administer immunotherapy, and provide patients with the best treatment outcomes.