Colds and flu affect everybody from time to time. While sometimes these common conditions can be nothing more than a mild inconvenience, other times they can knock you right off your feet.
One of the major problems with colds and flu is that viruses rather than bacteria cause them. Therefore, they cannot be cured with antibiotics, and all you can do is rest up and let your immune system do its business. After about five to seven days, most healthy adults will bounce back from both colds and the flu. But what can you do in the meantime?
There are steps you can take to relieve your symptoms and make life more comfortable while you wait.
While many people reach straight for the medicine cabinet when they catch a cold or flu, others would prefer to take a more natural approach. Some people might be thinking about turning to cannabis to ease the aches and pains of a cold or flu. But is smoking weed a good idea when you are feeling under the weather?
What causes the common cold?
Over 200 different viruses can cause symptoms of the common cold. People come down with symptoms of the common cold after breathing in viral particles. These pathogens usually enter your lungs after you have been near someone coughing, sneezing, or simply breathing. You are also vulnerable if you touch a contaminated surface and wipe your mouth or pick your nose without washing your hands.
The common cold can strike at any time, but infection rates increase dramatically during autumn and winter. The lack of humidity during these months causes the nasal passages to become dry, contributing to infection.
Several risk factors also increase a person’s chances of catching a cold. These include:
- People either younger or older in age
- Having a compromised immune system
- Being a frequent smoker
How do common colds affect the body?
Colds viruses cause upper respiratory infections. When viral particles first enter the airways, your immune system rises to the occasion.
White blood cells will first differentiate between foreign pathogens and the body’s own cells. Once they identify the enemy, these white blood cells get to work.
Soon after, the adaptive immune system kicks in. White blood cells manufacture antibodies specifically designed to combat the new pathogen. These proteins mean the body can defend itself against future infections by the same pathogen.
You may experience various physical symptoms such as:
- Stuffy nose
- Low-grade fever
Most people recover before anything else happens. It does not fade away as easily for everyone, though. Symptoms of an advanced cold include:
- Ear infection
- Strep throat
- Chest infection
How does smoking cannabis affect me when I am sick?
If you feel like you have a cold or the flu, smoking weed depends on personal preference. The consensus among researchers is that cannabis does not affect the common cold or flu. Although, more studies are needed to verify any such claims.
Smoking weed can cause discomfort if you are already irritated, but it can also soothe muscle aches and inflammation caused by flu or fever.
Cannabis smoke has been shown to have analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects, both of which can help with fever aches and soothe a swollen throat. Smoking weed can also increase your appetite and help you sleep when rest is elusive.
One of the main things to consider when smoking while sick is to keep it amongst yourself. There is an increased risk of spreading your illness when smoking with others, particularly when you are sharing a joint, bowl, or bong among a group. When all is said and done, you do not need to smoke cannabis to enjoy its benefits. If you have respiratory issues, consider tinctures or edibles instead of smoking.
Although there may be benefits to smoking weed while sick, it is unclear if they outweigh the potential negative effects. The potential benefits include:
- Anti-inflammatory: According to a comprehensive 2017 review, there is evidence that weed smoke has anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation plays a role in many cold and flu symptoms. 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 is different than the acute aches and pains caused by a cold or the flu. Still, smoking weed can help to 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 are 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 are a regular user, weed might not be as effective in helping you sleep.
Can smoking weed make a cold worse?
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 cold may find that they become worse after smoking weed.
While some people say that smoking helps with inflammatory symptoms, others argue that heat and smoke can make these symptoms worse.
Another downside to smoking weed with a cold is that it might increase symptoms such as dizziness. This is because smoking weed can cause your blood pressure to fall suddenly causing you to feel light-headed or dizzy. While this may not be a common problem for experienced users, novice smokers may be especially susceptible while already fighting off an infection.
Furthermore, cannabis (especially edibles) can cause nausea or stomach upsets in some people. This is not what you want if you are already feeling under the weather.
Can you smoke weed and take cold medication together?
If you want to maximize your relief from cold symptoms, you might be wondering whether it is safe to use cannabis and take cold medicines at the same time.
While there are no known interactions between cannabis and over-the-counter cold remedies, you should exercise caution using the two together. Both weed and some cold medicines can cause drowsiness, and that could mean that you feel extra groggy if you take both.
Therefore, it may be best to choose one or the other, especially during the day or if you have important tasks to complete.
Best ways to use cannabis to treat a cold
Thankfully, you can consume cannabis in many different ways. Even better, most of them do not involve passing hot smoke down your sore, cold-ridden throat.
- Make some cannabis tea: A warm cup of tea does wonders to lift the spirits when you are cold-stricken. Try adding a little cannabutter to your tea to ease your symptoms. Cannabis tea allows users to avoid inhaling anything, and it produces more intense effects than smoking.
- Cannabis topicals: The common cold often causes fatigue and aching muscles. It just so happens that topical CBD can potentially help stave off these issues. Since you are applying it directly to the skin as a gel, lotion, or balm, it can more directly target the source of the issue.
- Edibles: allow users to bypass smoking, sending cannabinoids directly through the digestion tract and into the bloodstream. Edibles take longer to set in due to their extended metabolic pathway, but the effects are often much more pronounced. You can even make cannabutter at home to infuse your favorite dish with high levels of THC, CBD, or both.
- Vaping: Unlike smoking, vaping at low temperatures preserve every cannabinoid in the bud or concentrate. By only heating a bit past the decarboxylation point, the cannabinoids and terpenes can be vaporized without burning plant matter. This lack of combustion makes inhaling cannabinoids much less harsh on the throat.