Pepper Spray and Tear Gas
How to deal
- STAY CALM. Panicking increases the irritation. Breathe slowly and remember it is only temporary.
- If you see it coming or get a warning, put on protective gear, if able, try to move away or get upwind.
- Blow your nose, rinse your mouth, cough and spit. Try not to swallow.
- If you wear contacts, try to remove the lenses or get someone to remove them for you, with CLEAN, uncontaminated fingers.
- DO NOT RUB IT IN.
For the eyes and mouth
- Eye flush using a solution of half liquid antacid (Maalox) and half water.
- A bottle with a squirt cap is ideal for the eye flush.
- Always irrigate from the inside corner of the eye towards the outside, with head tilted back and slightly towards the side being rinsed. It needs to get into the eye to help.
- You may need to help open the victims’ eye for them - they most likely won’t be able/willing to open it themselves, and opening will cause a temporary increase in pain, but it does help.
- This works great as a mouth rinse too, as long as the victim is alert and breathing normally. Spit it out after rinsing.
For the skin
- Caution: in order to perform this procedure correctly, you need to be trained. If done improperly, harm can be done. Carefully avoid the eyes at all times.
- Treat small areas at a time with MOFIBA (mineral oil followed immediately by alcohol)
- Afterward, remove contaminated clothing and take a shower in the coldest water you can stand.
- Wash your clothes with strong detergents as soon as you are able.
- This shit is toxic, and will continually contaminate you and everyone around you until you get rid of it. Until then, try not to touch your eyes or your face, or other people, furniture, carpets etc. to avoid further contamination.
How They Affect You
- stinging, burning in your eyes, nose, mouth and skin
- excessive tearing, causing your vision to blur
- runny nose
- increased salivation
- coughing and difficulty breathing
- disorientation, confusion and sometimes panic
- Some people report feeling intense anger. This can be useful if you are prepared and able to focus it towards recovery and returning to the action.
Discomfort from tear gas usually disappears after 5-30 minutes, while the worst pepper spray discomfort may take 20 minutes to 2 hours to subside.
For some people the effects can be long-lasting and life-threatening. People with the conditions listed below should be aware of these risks and may want to try and avoid exposure.
- Folks with respiratory diseases, such as asthma, emphysema, etc. risk exacerbation or permanent damage if exposed.
- Vulnerable people such as infants, the elderly, and the immune compromised, risk intensified and possibly life-threatening responses.
- Anyone with chronic health conditions or those on medications that weaken the immune system, (ie: chemotherapy, Lupus, HIV, radiation, or long-term corticosteroids such as prednisone) risk exacerbation of illness, intensified response and possible delayed recovery.
- Women who are or could be pregnant, or who are trying to get pregnant may be at risk of spontaneous abortion or increased risk of birth defects.
- Nursing mothers risk passing toxins on to their infant.
- Folks with skin (ie: severe acne, psoriasis, or eczema) and eye (ie: conjunctivitis or uveitis) conditions risk an intensified response.
- People wearing contact lenses may experience increased eye irritation and damage due to chemicals being trapped under the lenses.
- Avoid the use of oils and lotions because they seem to “trap” the chemicals and thereby prolong exposure.
- We recommend using a water or alcohol-based sunscreen (rather than oilbased). If your choice is between oil-based or nothing, we advocate using the sunscreen. Pepper spray on top of sunburn is not good.
- We also recommend minimizing skin exposure by covering up as much as possible. This can also protect you from the sun, as can a hat.
- Gas masks provide the best facial protection, if properly fitted and sealed. Alternatively, goggles (with shatter-proof lenses), respirators, even a wet bandana over the nose and mouth will help.
The best protection against chemical weapons is a gas mask. There are several important factors to consider when looking for a gas mask. Shatter-proof lenses are important. For convenience, look for a mask that uses standard NATO filters. Try it on to check for limited visibility, comfort, ease of use, etc. and be sure to practice with it before you’re in the streets fumbling with unfamiliar straps.
When paired with goggles, respirators make an excellent alternative to gas masks. It is necessary to do some homework beforehand and find goggles that don’t fog up and that fit tightly on your face with the respirator. Respirators can be purchased at safety supply stores. Ask for filters for organic chemicals, and tell the clerk what you’re filtering to doublecheck. Costs between $18-24.
A bandana soaked in apple cider vinegar (water if nothing else) and tied tightly around the nose and mouth is a last resort. It is far better than nothing, but is not going to do much for long-term protection, and multiple uses will render it as gassy as the air around you.
Shatterproof swim goggles work reasonably well to protect against pepper spray exposure. Most goggles have air holes to prevent fogging - fill these with epoxy. Covering the holes with duct tape can work against an initial attack, though not for long term protection. Try them on with your respirator or bandana to ensure that they are compatible. Note that swim goggles generally do not provide an adequate seal against tear gas.
- An Activist’s Guide to Basic First Aid. Black Cross Health Collective.
- Direct Action Handbook. LIFE asbl.
- Facts About Riot Control Agents Interim document. CDC.