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Is It Safe To Use Cannabis While Battling A Cold Or Flu?


Winter often tops the list as the least favored season, with colds and flus lurking in the shadows. Colds, typically milder and creeping in gradually, contrast sharply with the abrupt onslaught of the flu, complete with headaches, body aches, and unrelenting fatigue. Nights become restless, noses get stuffy, and mouths turn into noisy breathing machines during these common respiratory battles that can leave you feeling miserable for a week or longer.

When sickness strikes, we all have our trusted remedies, be it hot toddies or comforting bowls of soup. Some cannabis enthusiasts also turn to weed to ease the discomfort of colds and flu, hoping it will help them pass the time.

Before utilizing medicinal cannabis while residing in Shreveport, ensure you have a Medical Card Shreveport

But what happens when you introduce cannabis to a body already fighting off a cold or flu? Is it safe to smoke or consume cannabis while battling wheezing and coughing? Can weed genuinely provide relief from cold or flu symptoms, or is it merely wishful thinking?

Let’s delve into whether cannabis can be a helpful ally or a potential for when confronted with a cold or the flu.

How cannabis affects the respiratory system? 

Evidence strongly suggests that regular cannabis smoking, even in the absence of illness, can result in unwelcome respiratory symptoms such as coughing, phlegm production, wheezing, breathlessness, throat inflammation, and, for individuals with asthma, exacerbation of symptoms. These adverse effects stem from the irritation caused by the hot smoke, which can harm the delicate respiratory tissues in the lungs and airways. Among those who smoke cannabis frequently (several times a day), the potential for more severe damage is a concern.

Occasional cannabis smoking may still provoke respiratory symptoms like temporary coughing or a burning throat, but it is less likely to induce long-term harm to the lungs.

When it comes to vaping, research indicates that it carries a lower risk of chronic respiratory symptoms compared to smoking. In one study, vaporizer users were found to be 40% less likely to report coughing, phlegm production, and chest tightness than those who smoked cannabis. Another study involving 20 individuals found that 12 of them experienced improvements in their respiratory symptoms and lung function after switching from smoking to vaping for 30 days.

In summary, regular cannabis smoking can have detrimental effects on the throat, lungs, and airways, even in the absence of a cold or flu, whereas vaping appears to pose fewer negative consequences to the respiratory system. Therefore, lighting up when you’re dealing with severe congestion and persistent coughing may not be the wisest course of action.

Does cannabis aggravate cold or flu symptoms? 

Colds and flus are infections that target the respiratory system, affecting various parts such as the nose, throat, mouth, airways, and lungs. Interestingly, some of the symptoms closely resemble those experienced by chronic cannabis smokers, including throat inflammation, coughing, shortness of breath, and excessive phlegm production. Given this overlap, it’s logical to consider that smoking may worsen the already unpleasant symptoms associated with these infections. As a result, there appears to be a consensus among both experts and consumers that it’s best to give your respiratory system a break when you’re battling an infection, opting instead for cannabis edibles, tinctures, or topicals.

Dr. Jordan Tishler, President and CEO of Inhale MD and President of the Association of Cannabinoid Specialists, strongly advises against inhaling cannabis when you’re laid low with a cold or flu. The heat, particles, and toxins associated with smoking can potentially exacerbate symptoms like wheezing, breathing difficulties, and weaken the body’s natural defenses against viruses.

“In general, I would advise against smoking when sick, and frankly, even at other times,” stated Tishler. “It is not advised to use other cannabis inhalation methods, including flower vaporization, as they may worsen symptoms.”

Tishler also noted that many patients at his practice who have conditions like asthma or COPD report that inhaling cannabis worsens their condition, and that’s not even when they have a cold or flu.

“It’s likely to get worse as soon as someone gets sick,” he added.

“It is common knowledge that respiratory illnesses can be treated using non-psychoactive cannabis, but that doesn’t mean it is always a good idea to use it” Dr. Tishler concluded. “There’s currently limited research on this topic. While some individuals might claim that they feel better overall when intoxicated while sick, others may find it to be an unpleasant experience.”

Additionally, it’s important to consider that other effects of cannabis might not be desirable when you’re feeling unwell. For instance, the flu can leave you feeling weak and dizzy, and certain cannabis strains can induce lightheadedness. Combining the two could potentially worsen your condition. It should go without saying that experimenting with high doses of cannabis is ill-advised when you’re fighting off the flu.

Can cannabis provide relief for cold and flu symptoms?

While there is limited research specifically addressing the effects of cannabis on colds and flus, a substantial body of research supports the idea that cannabis can effectively address various common symptoms associated with these illnesses. These symptoms include aches and pains, insomnia, increased appetite, and headaches.

Moreover, intriguing research indicates that occasional cannabis smoking may provide a temporary bronchodilation effect, allowing individuals to experience improved airflow for a short duration (typically 15-60 minutes). This phenomenon may enable temporary relief from symptoms like shortness of breath or wheezing, although the relief may be subtle and short-lived.

Dr. Dustin Sulak suggests that cannabis could offer unique advantages to those dealing with a cold or flu. Cannabis may assist in drying out upper respiratory secretions, akin to its ability to induce dryness in the mouth (commonly referred to as cottonmouth). Additionally, cannabis can serve as an expectorant, aiding in the clearance of phlegm from the lungs and throat. Nevertheless, Sulak advises caution against inhaling cannabis if you are experiencing adverse respiratory symptoms. 

Obtaining a marijuana recommendation is an option for those considering cannabis for medicinal use, it is strongly recommended to consult a 420 doctor before integrating it into your medical treatment plan. If you prefer not to visit a clinic, you can conveniently apply for your MMJ recommendation online from the comfort of your own home.