Can You Be Allergic to Cannabis?

Scott Jones

Itchy eyes, runny noses, and sneezing are annoying, but allergies are not just a seasonal bother. For some, allergies are potentially dangerous reactions. As cannabis and cannabinoid products continue to become a more common aspect of everyday life, you’re more likely to run into them even if you’ve never tried them before. It’s reasonable to wonder if you can be allergic to cannabis, especially if you have a history of being allergic to other plants and foods. In this article we’ll go over what kinds of allergies can be associated with cannabis, what their symptoms are, whether a doctor can diagnose a cannabis allergy, and how you can treat the more common symptoms of cannabis allergies. Let’s check it out. 

Why We Have Allergies

Allergies, what’s the point? Why does a body work so hard to defend itself from something harmless? The truth is doctors don’t know exactly why some people experience allergies and others do not. We do, however, understand the mechanics of how they happen. Our immune systems are built to fight off intrusion from the things that seek to harm the body, like bacteria, microbes, and viruses. However, sometimes the immune system misidentifies things that do not mean to cause the body harm and activates the defense systems when it does not need to. 

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology (ACAAI), over 50 million people in the United States have some type of allergy. Allergies do appear to have a genetic component, with certain reactions running in families, passed down from generation to generation. While the exact reason these reactions occur is unclear, there are some materials that commonly cause allergies, including:

  • Animal dander
  • Insect stings and bites
  • Specific foods (nuts, shellfish, gluten)
  • Medications
  • Plants and pollen
  • Mold
  • Dust mites

Cannabis Allergies

Cannabis is a flowering plant that creates pollen, so can you be allergic to it? The answer is yes. While cannabis allergies have been thought to be rare, it is difficult to say how prevalent they may be because cannabis and hemp were not legal to produce in the United States for so long. Now that cannabis and its byproducts are more widely available, it is possible that doctors will discover that cannabis allergies are more common than initially suspected. 

Allergies can be caused by the pollen created by the flowers, the fibers of the cannabis and hemp plants, or the plant’s terpenes and essential oil. One might have an allergic reaction to cannabis after their first use or develop sensitivity to the allergy over time. In fact, according to this study, it’s even possible to present an allergy and then outgrow it. 


Those who have certain food allergies are at a greater risk of having a cannabis allergy. This is known as cross-reactivity. Because these foods have similar protein profiles to cannabis, being allergic to them could indicate a greater likelihood of a cannabis allergy. These foods include:

  • Tomatoes
  • Peaches
  • Grapefruit
  • Almonds
  • Chestnuts
  • Eggplant
  • Apples
  • Bananas

Allergies can be caused cannabis and hemp, as well as cannabinoids such as cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that are derived from the plant. While it is possible to only be allergic to the pollen or fibers, if you have a cannabis allergy from exposure to the plant, there is the possibility that an extract or edible will cause a similar reaction. Because exact allergies can be difficult to identify, you should monitor any symptoms you experience in relation to how you were exposed to cannabis.

Cannabis Allergy Symptoms

The types of symptoms that present, how severe they are, and how long they last will vary from person to person. Cannabis allergies typically present themselves in three circumstances: skin contact, airborne exposure, and consumption.

Skin Contact

One way a cannabis reaction can appear is through a skin reaction, which happens when the person touches plant or things made from it. This can happen through handling the plants or flowers or using oils and topicals made with cannabis products. Common symptoms of a skin reaction to cannabis are:

  • Itching
  • Redness
  • Rash or hives
  • Dry skin

Airborne Exposure

Inhaling cannabis compounds can also cause an allergic reaction. This can happen by being exposed to cannabis pollen, inhaling cannabis smoke, or coming into contact with dust from processing the plants. An airborne reaction can even occur through secondhand smoke. The symptoms are:

  • Rhinitis (runny nose)
  • Sinus congestion
  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Sore throat
  • Respiratory problems


Cannabis edibles are an increasingly popular way to enjoy cannabinoids, but eating something made with cannabis can also cause an allergic reaction. Symptoms that may appear after eating a cannabis compound can be:

  • Swollen or red eyes
  • Rash or hives
  • Swollen skin
  • Difficulty breathing or speaking

Diagnosing a Cannabis Allergy

A doctor can diagnose a patient with a cannabis allergy by discussing what symptoms they experience when they are exposed to it, but there are also tests that can be conducted to determine that it is cannabis that your body is reacting to.

Skin Test

Skin tests are conducted by exposing the patient to the compound being tested and keeping a close eye on how the skin reacts to it. This can be done in a few ways.

  • Patch test – the allergen is taped to the skin
  • Skin prick test – A small prick deposits the allergen into the skin
  • Intradermal test – A syringe is used to inject the allergen just under the skin

Challenge Test

Challenge testing, also called elimination testing, works on a simple premise. The patient eliminates exposure to cannabis for several weeks and then special attention is paid to any symptoms that may arise when the patient begins using cannabis again.

Blood Test

While there are allergy blood tests that are able diagnose specific allergies, as of now, there is no such specific test that checks for a cannabis allergy. However, there are blood tests that measure an antibody known as allergen-specific immunoglobulin (IgE). This can show that something is causing you to have an allergic reaction, but not what it is. When paired with a challenge test, this can help identify a cannabis allergy.

Treating a Cannabis Allergy

Once a person has determined that they have a cannabis allergy, the best course of action is to avoid contact with it. While the symptoms of cannabis allergies are typically mild, regular exposure to an allergen can cause chronic inflammation throughout the body, which can lead to less obvious symptoms like pain, fatigue, and a compromised immune system.

Sometimes avoiding cannabis completely is easier said than done. Those who work in the cannabis industry, patients who rely on medical cannabis to treat other disorders, or those who live in proximity with someone who smokes cannabis are going to have a tough time not coming into running into it at all. If that’s the case antihistamines, decongestants, and itch relief creams can reduce the symptoms of mild allergic reactions like a runny nose, sinus congestion, or itchy eyes and skin.

Severe Reactions

There are not many reports of severe allergic reactions to cannabis, but on at least one occasion a man went into anaphylaxis after eating hemp-seed encrusted seafood. Even if it is unlikely, you should be aware of the symptoms of a more serious reaction so that you can react accordingly. 

  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty swallowing, breathing, or speaking
  • Heart palpitations,
  • Swelling of the face, eyes, or tongue

If you ever experience a severe allergic reaction of any kind, you should seek medical attention immediately. 

The Takeaway

We don’t know exactly why our bodies have allergic reactions, but we do know that they can often be caused by certain plants, their pollens, and their essential oils. Cannabis is no exception to this. While it has long been believed that cannabis allergies are rare, its legal status has made it difficult to get an accurate picture of how widespread the allergies may be. Generally, the symptoms of a cannabis allergy are mild, with symptoms like a runny nose or itchy eyes and skin. Still, prolonged exposure to an allergen can lead to less noticeable impacts to your health. If you are certain that you have a cannabis allergy, the best course of action is to avoid further contact. However, it that’s not possible, the symptoms can be managed with prescription or over the counter allergy medications and creams. If you think you may have a cannabis allergy, speaking to a doctor can help in confirming the diagnosis and putting together a plan for treatment. If you’re interested in learning more about cannabis and cannabinoids, check out our education page or search a topic in our blog.

Can You Be Allergic to Cannabis?
In this article we’ll go over what kinds of allergies can be associated with cannabis, symptoms & how you can treat the more common symptoms.
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Can You Be Allergic to Cannabis?
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