While cannabis offers many benefits, smoking it can take its toll on your airways, including the throat. The act of smoking (including smoking tobacco) is a risk factor for sore throat in both smokers themselves and in those exposed to secondary smoke (passive smoking).
While these tips won’t prevent a sore throat when smoking, they may help reduce the irritation and lessen the severity.
Tips to Avoid or Reduce a Sore Throat When Smoking Weed
While there is no way to completely avoid a sore throat when smoking, there are a few things you can do to help protect your throat and reduce the risk of irritation.
1. Stay hydrated while smoking
Drinking fluids, such as water or warm tea when smoking is a good way to keep your mouth and throat hydrated and counteract the drying effects caused by smoking that can contribute to a sore throat. Drinking water throughout the day helps make sure your body remains hydrated. Avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol though as these can contribute to dehydration.
In areas of dry climate, a cool mist vaporizer in the room can help ease throat dryness as well.
2. A salty mouthwash could help
Instead of gargling with mouthwash, Harvard Medical suggests gargling with warm salty water in order to ease minor throat pain and irritation. The Mayo Clinic recommends a saltwater gargle of ¼ to ½ teaspoon of table salt to 4 to 8 ounces of warm water.
3. Try some tea or hard candies
When it comes to sore throats, your grandma may have recommended some tea and honey when you were growing up and there is some evidence that grandma knew what she was talking about.
Tea, especially green tea, has natural anti-inflammatory properties. As stated earlier, smoking can cause inflammation and irritation in the throat. Drinking, or gargling green tea, as shown in a 2016 study, can help reduce inflammation in the throat and reduce throat pain. Adding a warm cup of tea while smoking helps keep your throat hydrated as well as it helps reduce the risk of inflammation.
Hard candies or sore throat lozenges can also help reduce or avoid a sore throat. The sucking action stimulates saliva production that helps keep your mouth and throat moist. This can counteract the drying effects of smoking and help keep your dry, sore throat at bay.
Additionally, lozenges often contain substances such as a local anesthetic, non steroid anti-inflammatory drug or an antiseptic all of which can help ameliorate symptoms.
While you cannot completely eliminate the risk of a sore throat, or even a cough, when smoking cannabis, these tips may help keep your throat healthy and may also help to reduce the pain and discomfort you experience when smoking.
As always, if you do experience chronic cough or cough that is accompanied with blood or excessive sputum or any other associated adverse symptoms please seek medical help without delay because it could be a harbinger to numerous health conditions.
Smoking as an Irritant
Pharyngitis is the inflammation of the oropharynx and is referred to commonly as a “sore throat.”
Whether you are smoking tobacco or cannabis, combusting organic matter results in the introduction of hundreds of chemicals and particulate matter throughout the respiratory and oral tract, all the way from the mouth down the airway into the inner recesses of the alveoli located in the lungs.
In spite of its occurrence, the precise cellular mechanisms of a sore throat are unknown but it appears “neurogenic inflammation” is one of the likely reasons.
What is known is that smoke irritates particular tissues (such as stratified squamous epithelial cells of the oropharyngeal mucosa), causing damage and reduced mucociliary clearance while impairing the immune response.
Furthermore coughing further exacerbates the injury in the throat because of the physical shear forces impacting the tissues as a result of air traveling out at nearly the speed of sound. In addition, smoking contributes to an increased risk of heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD because smoke and its constituents weaken the lower esophageal sphincter resulting in backflow of stomach acid to the esophagus including the delicate tissues in the throat literally causing chemical burns.
Can Vaping Weed Prevent Irritation?
Vaporization is different from combustion primarily because of less toxicant exposure such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons which are components of the combustion process relative to traditional smoking methods. Vaporizers work by heating marijuana to a high temperature without actually burning it. This creates a vapor that is inhaled.
Because the marijuana doesn’t burn, the vapor does not give off the same harmful chemicals associated with smoking. While articles all over the internet will tell you this is a much safer way to smoke, the truth is there just isn’t enough long-term research to show that is the case as there are other associated risks.
For example, while vaping may not contain the same chemicals as smoke, it can still contain a lot of irritants, solvents and pesticides that can be present which negatively affect tissues in the airways and this is particularly attributable in vapes using an oil concentrate.
Additionally, the heating element in vaporizers emits microscopic particles, including metals, that get lodged in the lung tissue and can get absorbed into the body’s circulatory system.
In another example of the risks associated with vaping, a 2018 study showed that, given the same level of THC, vaping created higher blood concentrations than traditional smoking, as well as higher levels of cognitive and psychomotor impairment and a greater risk of adverse effects, including vomiting, anxiety, and feelings of paranoia.
What about Edibles?
One way to avoid the risk of a sore throat from smoking marijuana is to switch over to edibles. Because there is no inhalation or smoke or vapors, the risk is eliminated.
However, edibles come with their own considerations. The biggest difference between edibles and smoking is the time it takes for the drug to kick in. While smoking provides an almost instant high or symptom relief, edibles have a delayed onset.
This, unfortunately, can cause people to consume a much higher dose than intended. If you choose to move over into the world of edibles, start slow and with smaller doses - referring to the THC content - until you discover how your body processes edible.
Essentially, users need to treat consuming an edible with the same precaution as one would take with a prescription medication in that each user needs to conduct a “dose response.” Quite simple to do, this involves starting with a really low dose of THC (the percentage and mg per unit of the edible should be available on the product packaging).
A safe bet for example can be 1 mg of THC (or even lower based on your sensitivity level) and ask yourself how you are after an hour or two in terms of the symptoms you are trying to manage - because of the time taken to metabolize the edible.
Note that there is no correlation with how much one can inhale versus your tolerance with an edible because THC for example is modified to a more psychoactive form after passing through the liver which happens with edibles. So caution is warranted!
Gradually increase the dose in small increments when you are comfortable every couple of days or so in order to achieve symptom relief - whether it is pain or poor sleep or low appetite.
You ought to be able to find a customized optimal dose within a few days of carefully making note of what you are consuming. Please note products vary considerably in terms of potency regardless of the stated THC content so perform a deliberate dose response on each new brand or edible.