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?

Of course, 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 marijuana 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 marijuana while sick with the cold or flu. Research exploring the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes is still extremely limited.

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

Anti-inflammatory

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

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

  • sore throat
  • swollen nasal passageways
  • fever


Marijuana’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 marijuana 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 marijuana 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 marijuana’s active ingredient, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), may help sleep in the short-term.


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

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

There’s moderate evidence that smoking marijuana can lead to the following side effects, but this list may not be exhaustive 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 marijuana smoke irritates the throat and airways.

Other routes of administration, such as vaping, generally don’t have the same effects 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, marijuana 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.

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

Although smoking and vaping both involve inhalation, they aren’t the same thing.

Smoking involves burning the marijuana plant and inhaling the smoke. Vaping involves heating the marijuana plant and inhaling the vapor.

Smoking and vaping affect the lungs differently. Unlike smoking, vaping isn’t associated with side effects such as a chronic cough. However, a 2015 review suggests that the advantages of vaping marijuana instead of smoking it are modest.

If you have a cough, cold, or the flu, vaping is likely the better alternative to minimize respiratory symptoms.

Other ways to consume cannabis include:

  • edibles
  • tinctures
  • ingestible oils
  • topical oils
  • patches
  • oral sprays

These forms of cannabis won’t make your cough or sore throat worse. However, they can still cause other side effects. The side effects depend on the concentration of active ingredients, such as THC.

It can take some experimentation to find the appropriate dosage. If these methods aren’t a part of your regular routine, it probably isn’t a good idea to experiment with them while you’re sick.

CBD stands for cannabidiol, a plant-extracted cannabinoid that is taken in oil form. Unlike THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, it isn’t psychoactive and doesn’t cause a “high.”

A 2016 review indicates that CBD has anti-inflammatory and muscle-relaxing properties. While there currently isn’t any clinical research assessing CBD use while sick with a cough, cold, or the flu, it might help relieve symptoms such as a stuffy nose, sore throat, and aches and pains.

CBD is generally considered safe. However, some people might still experience side effects. CBD can cause gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. It can also cause dizziness.

If you have never tried it, you might want to wait until you’re feeling better.

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.

Q:

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

A:

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

Smoking weed when you have a cough, cold, or flu isn’t necessarily bad for you, especially if it’s something you do on a regular basis. But it could make your cough or sore throat worse.

You should see a doctor if you have chest pain, difficulty breathing, or a high fever that isn’t going away.

It’s important to keep your doctor in the loop if you’re using recreational drugs or herbal supplements. Your doctor can help you make informed health decisions and monitor for any related complications.