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weed seed gets in nose

With marijuana use becoming increasingly common — and legal for either medical or recreational use in a growing number of states — doctors are warning about a little-known health risk: It’s possible to be allergic to pot.

The authors, allergy and immunology specialists Dr. Thad Ocampo and Dr. Tonya Rans, say that in people with allergies, just touching the plant can cause skin reactions such as hives, itching and puffiness or swelling around the eyes.

Another potential allergy risk comes from ingesting edible cannabis products. One patient cited in the study suffered a serious reaction after eating hemp seed-encrusted seafood and required antihistamines and a shot of epinephrine, an emergency treatment for potentially life-threatening allergic reactions including anaphylaxis. Later tests proved the patient was not allergic to seafood — hemp seeds from the cannabis plant were the culprit.

The authors of a new study say it’s a problem we could start seeing more often. Their research, published this week in the journal Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, rounded up the medical evidence documenting cases of allergic reactions to the marijuana plant, also known by its Latin name Cannabis sativa. “Although still relatively uncommon,” they write, “allergic disease associated with C sativa exposure and use has been reported with increased frequency.”

Like most plant allergens, they note, cannabis pollen can cause symptoms like allergic rhinitis — inflammation of the nasal passages accompanied by sneezing, congestion, itching and a runny nose — along with eye inflammation and asthma.

The man’s nose stone—reported this month in the journal BMJ Case Reports—is a rare example of illicit drugs causing a rhinolith, which are rare on their own. Rhinoliths are stone-like concretions formed by the gradual buildup of salts around things not normally found in the nose. The term rhinolith comes from the Greek rhino (meaning nose) and lithos (meaning stone). They’re estimated to show up in 1 out of 10,000 outpatient visits to an ear, nose, and throat doctor.

Doctors excavated from the man’s right nasal cavity a 19mm×11mm rock-hard mass—the calcified remains of a small amount of marijuana he tried to smuggle into prison a startling 18 years earlier.

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Doctors promptly removed the firm wad and dissected it. They reported finding “a ‘rubber capsule’ containing degenerate vegetable/plant matter” inside. After the doctors asked some obvious follow-up questions, the man finally remembered the nasal smuggling nearly two decades earlier.

The team of doctors reporting the pot smuggler’s rhinolith note that there only appears to be one other case of a rhinolith formed from illicit drugs. It was a case from 2007 of a 21-year-old man who came to have a hardened mixture of codeine and opium wrapped in a nylon sheet up his nose for several years.

Thus, medical records of rhinoliths are sparse but go back as far as 1654. When they have shown up, doctors have found them forming around a wide range of objects. Those include bodily objects (like randomly located teeth, bone fragments, blood clots, and hardened boogers) as well as foreign objects (like seeds, beads, and buttons), which are things often shoved up a nose by a toddler.