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How does smoking weed affect a cold?

Cannabis, or weed, is a psychoactive drug that some people use for medical or recreational purposes. Although its use is highly controversial, this is changing as more states and other countries move to legalize and regulate the drug.

Some people believe that smoking weed can help alleviate the symptoms of the common cold. If true, this could be due to the anti-inflammatory compounds present in cannabis.

Other people believe either that smoking cannabis has no effect on a cold or that it could make symptoms worse. Indeed, burning cannabis produces heat and smoke, both of which are likely to irritate the sinuses, potentially exacerbating respiratory symptoms.

Currently, there is no direct research on the effects that smoking weed has on a cold. However, research into the general health effects of cannabis use can help shed light on this area.

In this article, we outline the existing research relating to smoking weed with a cold and discuss the potential side effects.

Share on Pinterest Determining the effects of smoking weed during a cold will require more research.

To date, there has been a lack of scientific research focusing specifically on the effects of smoking weed with a cold.

As the authors of a 2016 review note, the general health effects of cannabis smoking can be difficult to gauge. One reason for this is that different strains of cannabis contain varying concentrations of the active compounds delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).

THC is the psychoactive compound that alters a person’s mood, while CBD is the compound that provides the purported health benefits of the drug.

Despite the lack of direct research into smoking weed with a cold, there are several related questions that research may help answer. We consider some of these below.

Proponents of cannabis often promote weed smoking as a cure-all for minor health issues, such as the common cold.

However, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that smoking weed will cure a cold.

Cannabis contains compounds called cannabinoids and terpenoids. According to a 2018 article in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, these compounds may have anti-inflammatory effects on the body. These effects may help alleviate some of the inflammatory symptoms of a cold, including:

  • inflamed sinuses
  • pressure headaches
  • puffy eyes

Smoking weed may also help lessen general aches and pains, which are common symptoms of a cold. As a 2019 review states, cannabinoids reduce feelings of pain in many people, even those who experience chronic pain.

Again, there is no evidence relating specifically to cold symptoms. Anyone considering using weed to help with these symptoms may wish to consider scientifically proven options first.

Opponents of cannabis use may be more likely to claim that smoking weed can worsen a cold.

There is no evidence to suggest that smoking weed makes a cold last longer or that it suppresses the body’s ability to fight a cold. However, some research suggests that smoking weed may aggravate certain cold symptoms.

A 2018 review found low strength evidence linking weed smoking to respiratory symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing, and mucus production. A person who already has these symptoms due to a cold may find that they become worse after smoking weed.

While some people say that smoking helps with inflammatory symptoms, others argue that the heat and smoke can make these symptoms worse.

People who want to smoke weed to alleviate a cold should, therefore, consider other methods of cannabis ingestion. For instance, they could try consuming either cannabis infused edibles or the extracted anti-inflammatory compounds, such as CBD oil.

Some people claim that weed interacts with cold medications, and this is true for certain types.

For instance, some over-the-counter (OTC) cold medications may cause side effects similar to those of weed. Taking both drugs together can exacerbate these side effects.

Some common side effects of weed and OTC cold medications include:

  • dry mouth
  • drowsiness
  • impaired cognitive function
  • dizziness
  • feeling cold

As smoking weed or taking OTC cold medications can cause drowsiness, people who use either should avoid driving, operating heavy machinery, and doing any other activities that require focus.

A cold can cause a range of uncomfortable symptoms, including:

  • headaches
  • sinus pressure
  • a runny or stuffy nose
  • sneezing
  • a cough
  • a sore, scratchy throat

Some people may find that smoking weed helps alleviate these symptoms, while others may find that it makes the symptoms worse.

One thing that a person should consider when smoking weed is that they are inhaling hot smoke into their lungs. Both heat and smoke are potential irritants. Ingesting irritants in this way may cancel out any anti-inflammatory benefits that the cannabinoids and terpenoids provide.

Smoke may be particularly irritating for people with nasal symptoms, such as sneezing and congestion. Smoke can also irritate the throat and lungs, resulting in increased phlegm production. Excess phlegm can worsen a cough and aggravate an itchy throat.

Heat can also aggravate throat symptoms. The smoke from a joint or handheld vaporizer can be hot, as it does not have much time to cool before entering the throat. This heat can further irritate the throat, making it dry and sore.

Other methods of cannabis smoking may help cool the smoke slightly. One option is to use a water pipe that contains ice. However, the smoke itself may still be irritating.

There is currently no direct scientific research on the effects of smoking weed with a cold. As such, there is insufficient evidence to say whether taking this action has beneficial or detrimental effects.

Some people who smoke weed with a cold may find that it alleviates their symptoms. However, others may find that it irritates their nose, lungs, and throat and makes sinus and respiratory symptoms last longer. These detrimental effects are likely to be due to the smoke and heat that burning cannabis produces.

Anyone thinking about smoking weed with a cold may want to consider other methods of cannabis ingestion. These include eating medicated edibles or consuming the extracted anti-inflammatory compounds. Even then, there is no guarantee that the compounds in cannabis will alleviate a cold.

Last medically reviewed on September 27, 2019

Some people claim that smoking cannabis can alleviate cold symptoms, while others say that it can make them worse. Learn about the potential benefits and disadvantages of smoking cannabis with a cold.

Is It Safe to Smoke Weed If You Have a Cold or the Flu?

The safety and long-term health effects of using e-cigarettes or other vaping products still aren’t well known. In September 2019, federal and state health authorities began investigating an outbreak of a severe lung disease associated with e-cigarettes and other vaping products . We’re closely monitoring the situation and will update our content as soon as more information is available.

There isn’t any evidence that smoking weed while you have a cough, cold, or the flu is inherently unsafe. But does it make sense?

If your throat and lungs are already irritated, smoking may exacerbate your discomfort. Smoking weed has short- and long-term effects on lung and respiratory function.

You may also find that your body responds differently to weed when you’re sick. Both smoking weed and common illnesses such as the flu can cause fatigue, chills, and headaches. You may feel these effects more intensely when you’re sick.

If you already smoke weed on a regular basis, doing so while you’re sick probably won’t have a drastic impact on your symptoms. Still, you should proceed with caution. This probably isn’t the time to experiment with new dosages and strains.

You should also keep in mind that you can spread your illness to others by sharing a joint, bowl, or bong.

Read on to learn more.

At this time, there isn’t any available research on smoking weed while sick with the cold or flu. Research exploring the use of weed for medicinal purposes is still extremely limited.

Although there may be benefits to smoking weed while sick, it’s unclear if they outweigh the potential negative effects.

Anti-inflammatory

According to a comprehensive 2017 review , there’s evidence that weed smoke has anti-inflammatory properties.

Inflammation plays a role in a number of cold and flu symptoms, including:

  • sore throat
  • swollen nasal passageways
  • fever

Weed’s anti-inflammatory properties might help relieve some of these symptoms, but more research needs to be done to understand the exact benefits.

Pain relief

The same 2017 review concludes that weed is an effective treatment for chronic pain among adults.

Chronic pain is ongoing. It’s different than the acute aches and pains caused by a cold or the flu.

Still, it’s possible that smoking weed could help relieve pain associated with short-term illnesses such as a cold or the flu.

Sleep aid

A 2017 review of research on cannabis and sleep indicates that weed’s active ingredient, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), may help sleep in the short term.

Given this, smoking weed might help you sleep, but when you’re sick with a cold or the flu your sleep cycle might already be altered.

However, long-term weed use is associated with tolerance to the drug’s sleep-inducing effects. In other words, if you’re a regular user, weed might not be as effective in helping you sleep.

Although there’s no serious risk, combining weed with OTC cold and flu medications that have sedative effects, such as NyQuil, can intensify drowsiness and affect cognitive function. You may find it more difficult to concentrate or make decisions.

Can smoking or ingesting marijuana while taking OTC medications for cold and flu result in any adverse effects?

Marijuana should be used with caution while taking OTC medications for cold and flu. Some OTC remedies alter how the body processes the psychoactive components of marijuana, which may lead to an accumulation of excess effects.

Additionally, many OTC options have dry mouth, sedation, confusion, blurry vision, heart rate alterations, and loss of balance as typical side effects in susceptible users; marijuana consumption may lead to worsening of these effects.

To avoid risk of adverse effect, wait to use marijuana (if an occasional or rare user) or do not increase your typical dose consumed (if a routine user) if you require OTC cold or flu medications.

Daniel Murrell, MD Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.

Remember, there hasn’t been any research on weed use while sick with a cough, cold, or flu. In addition, studies on the use of weed for medicinal purposes are limited.

There’s moderate evidence that smoking weed can lead to the following side effects, but this list may not be complete due to the lack of research.

Worsened cough

According to a 2017 review , smoking weed in the long term is associated with a chronic cough and excess phlegm production.

If you’re sick with a cough, cold, or flu, smoking weed could make your respiratory symptoms worse. This is because weed smoke irritates the throat and airways.

Other routes of administration, such as vaping, generally don’t have the same effect on the respiratory system.

Dizziness

Dizziness is a common side effect of both inhaling and ingesting cannabis. Cannabis use can cause a sudden drop in blood pressure that may leave you feeling faint or light-headed.

If you already feel weak or dizzy while sick with a cough, cold, or flu, weed could make it worse.

If you’re a regular user, you may be able to minimize dizziness by decreasing your dosage.

Stomach pain

Inhaling or ingesting cannabis activates cannabinoid receptors in the gastrointestinal system. This can cause a variety of effects, including stomach pain and inflammation.

Cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, a rare condition linked to long-term cannabis use, causes severe stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting.

Weed use could exacerbate stomach symptoms caused by a cold or the flu, especially if you tend to experience stomach pain when you use weed. You may be able to minimize these effects by decreasing your dosage.

There isn't any evidence that smoking weed while you have a cough, cold, or the flu is inherently unsafe. But if your throat is already irritated, smoking may feel uncomfortable. Your body may also respond differently to weed while you’re sick. Here's what you should know about toking, vaping, edibles, and more.