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Learn | 03.20.2024

Smoking Weed While Sick: What You Need to Know

Navigating the haze of health and high.

Considering reaching for cannabis while battling a cold or flu?

While smoking weed hasn’t been definitively proven unsafe during illness, the well-being of your throat and lungs shouldn’t be overlooked. Plus, mixing cannabis with medications could lead to undesirable side effects, adding another layer of consideration to your decision.

Let’s navigate this common dilemma together, exploring the use of cannabis when your health is in question.

Is Smoking Weed Safe During A Cold Or Flu?

Evidence suggests that smoking weed can exacerbate respiratory symptoms such as coughing and congestion. Studies on mice indicate that certain cannabinoids may impair the body’s ability to combat viral infections like influenza A.

Before you pack up your stash, there may still be some residual benefits of using cannabis for those grappling with a cold or the flu. Alternative consumption methods are suggested here. 

However, before you sideline your cannabis entirely, it’s worth exploring the nuanced landscape of its potential benefits amidst sickness. Turning to alternative methods of consumption, such as edibles or tinctures, may offer the relief you seek without the negative respiratory effects linked to smoking.

Does Weed Help With The Flu & Cold Symptoms?

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Let’s shine a direct spotlight on the set of pros and cons that come with smoking cannabis when you’re feeling sick.

Pros Of Smoking Cannabis While Sick

Pain Relief: Cannabis is rich in cannabinoids like THC and CBD, which interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system to offer pain-relieving effects. This can help dull the discomfort of headaches and body aches.

Anti-inflammatory Benefits: These same cannabinoids can reduce inflammation, symptoms such as sore throats and swollen lymph nodes.

Improved Sleep: THC, in particular, has sedative qualities that can help those suffering from sleep disturbances find better rest. Good sleep is crucial for recovery, as it’s when the body heals itself most effectively.

Nausea and Vomiting Management: Strains high in CBD, can be effective in controlling nausea and vomiting, symptoms often associated with flu and, in some cases, medication side effects. This can make it easier to maintain hydration and nutrition during illness.

Cons Of Smoking Cannabis While Sick

Respiratory Irritation: The act of smoking introduces hot smoke and potential irritants into the lungs, which can exacerbate coughing, throat irritation, and congestion. 

Potential for Increased Discomfort: Smoking can dry out the nasal passages and throat, leading to increased discomfort. This is especially problematic for those with upper respiratory infections, where additional irritation can delay recovery.

Recommendation for Alternative Methods: Due to the cons associated with smoking, alternatives like edibles, tinctures, or topicals are recommended to avoid respiratory irritation. These methods bypass the lungs entirely, delivering the therapeutic benefits of cannabis without the risk of respiratory irritation. 

Edibles and tinctures offer systemic effects beneficial for pain, inflammation, and nausea, while topicals can provide localized relief to areas of discomfort without systemic effects or psychoactivity.

Risks Of Combining Cannabis With Medications

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The interplay between cannabis and prescribed medications necessitates caution.

THC and CBD can alter how the body processes medications. This interaction can change the effectiveness of flu medications, potentially diminishing their therapeutic effects or intensifying side effects. 

Particularly concerning are the interactions between cannabis and common medications such as:

Cough Suppressants and Expectorants: Medications like dextromethorphan (found in many over-the-counter cough syrups) or guaifenesin can have their effectiveness altered or side effects intensified when mixed with cannabis.

Fever Reducers and Pain Relievers: Common medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or aspirin, which are frequently used to manage fever and body aches associated with the flu, may interact with cannabis.

Decongestants: Medications such as pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine, used to relieve nasal congestion, can have unpredictable effects when combined with cannabis.

Antihistamines: Drugs like loratadine (Claritin) or diphenhydramine (Benadryl), used for allergy symptoms that also accompany some colds, may have increased drowsiness as a side effect when taken with cannabis.

Consuming Edibles While Sick

Photo by Elsa Olofsson

In light of the risks associated with smoking, exploring non-smoking forms of cannabis may be best. Edibles, tinctures, and topicals can offer relief without the respiratory risks associated with smoking. 

Edibles (gummies, baked goods): Offer a longer-lasting relief for symptoms like pain and sleep issues. Effects take longer to kick in, so start with a low dose and wait to see how you feel.

Tinctures (liquid extracts): Placed under the tongue for quicker absorption and effect, tinctures allow precise dosing and are effective for managing pain and anxiety. Try putting some drops in a soothing tea for extra comfort. 

Topicals (creams, balms): Applied directly to the skin, they provide localized relief from aches and pains without psychoactive effects or impacting the respiratory system.

While cannabis can provide comfort, choosing your consumption methods wisely ensures that relief comes gently during sickness.

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