Can I Smoke Weed If I Have a Cold or Flu?

by | Jun 7, 2023 | Health | 0 comments

Winter, often dreaded by many, brings the unwelcome arrival of colds and flus. These illnesses can leave you feeling miserable for days or even weeks, with symptoms like headaches, body pain, and extreme fatigue. As we each have our own remedies for sickness, some cannabis enthusiasts wonder if weed can provide relief and help pass the time during a cold or flu.

But what effects does cannabis have on a body fighting off respiratory illnesses? Is it safe to smoke weed while experiencing wheezing and coughing? Does cannabis actually alleviate cold and flu symptoms, or is it merely wishful thinking?

In this article, we will delve into whether cannabis can offer assistance or pose risks when faced with a cold or the flu.

Does Cannabis Affect Respiratory System?

Regular smoking of cannabis, regardless of illness, can cause respiratory symptoms such as cough, phlegm, wheezing, shortness of breath, throat inflammation, and aggravated asthma symptoms. These effects occur due to the heat of smoke, which irritates the delicate tissues in the lungs and airways. Individuals who frequently smoke cannabis, especially multiple times a day, may experience more severe damage.

Occasional cannabis smoking may still result in temporary symptoms like coughing or a burning throat, but it is less likely to cause long-term harm to the lungs. On the other hand, research indicates that vaping cannabis carries a lower risk of chronic respiratory symptoms compared to smoking. Studies have shown that vaporizer users are 40% less likely to report coughing, phlegm, and chest tightness than smokers. Moreover, individuals who switched from smoking to vaping observed improvements in respiratory symptoms and lung function after 30 days.

To summarize, regular smoking of cannabis can have detrimental effects on the throat, lungs, and airways, even in the absence of a cold or flu. Vaping, on the other hand, appears to have fewer negative impacts on the respiratory system. It is important to refrain from smoking when experiencing severe congestion and excessive coughing.

Will I Feel Worse if I Smoke Weed?

Colds and flus are respiratory infections that affect various parts of the respiratory system, including the nose, throat, mouth, airways, and lungs. Interestingly, some symptoms of these infections resemble those experienced by chronic cannabis smokers, such as an inflamed throat, coughing, shortness of breath, and excess phlegm production. It stands to reason that if your throat and lungs are already irritated, smoking cannabis may exacerbate the unpleasant symptoms you’re already experiencing.

Experts and consumers generally agree that giving your respiratory system a break when you’re battling an infection is the best approach. Instead, it’s recommended to opt for alternative forms of cannabis consumption, such as edibles, tinctures, or topicals.

Dr. Jordan Tishler, President and CEO of InhaleMD and President of the Association of Cannabinoid Specialists, strongly advises against inhaling cannabis when you’re unwell with a cold or flu. The heat, particles, and toxins associated with smoking can provoke wheezing, difficulty breathing, and weaken the body’s natural defenses against viruses.

“In general, I would advise avoiding smoking while sick—and frankly other times too,” says Tishler. “Other forms of inhalation, like vaporizing flower, are also likely to make you feel worse, so I would also recommend against those.”

Tishler notes that many of his patients with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have reported that inhaling cannabis worsens their condition, even without a cold or flu.

“Likely this would only be worse when a person is infected,” he adds.

Overall, Tishler believes that using non-inhaled forms of cannabis while sick with a respiratory illness is safe but may not necessarily have a positive impact. However, there is limited research on this topic. Some individuals may claim to feel better overall when intoxicated while sick, but others may find it unpleasant.

Additionally, other effects of cannabis may be undesirable when you’re feeling under the weather. The flu, in particular, can leave you weak and dizzy, and certain cannabis strains can cause lightheadedness. Combining the two could worsen your condition. It’s important to avoid experimenting with high doses of cannabis when you’re battling the flu.

Can Cannabis Ease Cold and Flu Symptoms?

Although there is limited research specifically focused on the effects of cannabis on colds and flus, existing studies provide substantial evidence supporting the potential benefits of weed in easing various symptoms commonly associated with these illnesses. Research suggests that cannabis can help alleviate aches and pain, improve sleep quality, increase appetite, and relieve headaches—symptoms frequently experienced during colds and flus.

Interestingly, some studies indicate that occasional cannabis smoking may lead to temporary bronchodilation, which can help open up airways for a short duration of 15 to 60 minutes. This means that infrequent smokers might experience the ability to take deeper breaths immediately after smoking, providing temporary relief from symptoms like shortness of breath or wheezing, although the effects may be subtle and short-lived.

According to Dr. Dustin Sulak, cannabis may also offer unique advantages for individuals with colds or flus. It has the potential to dry out upper respiratory secretions, similar to how it can cause dryness in the mouth (commonly known as cottonmouth). Additionally, cannabis can act as an expectorant, aiding in the clearance of phlegm from the lungs and throat. However, Sulak advises caution against inhaling cannabis if you’re experiencing any negative respiratory symptoms.

While more research is needed to fully understand the specific effects of cannabis on cold and flu symptoms, the existing evidence suggests that cannabis may have potential therapeutic benefits for individuals experiencing these illnesses.

IMPORTANT: The information on this blog is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as medical advice. Always consult a qualified healthcare professional for personalised medical advice. The authors of this blog are not medical professionals and disclaim any liability for the use of the information provide.

Enrico Bratta

Enrico Bratta

Medical cannabis professional based in Phuket, Thailand.


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Enrico Bratta

Medical cannabis professional based in Phuket, Thailand.