Thursday, 26 March 2009

TEAR GAS Prevention, Protection & Remedies


For most healthy people, the effects of tear gas and pepper spray are temporary. However, 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. Please be aware that in intense actions, police behavior can be unpredictable, and avoidance is not always possible.


  • 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 conditions (ie: severe acne, psoriasis, or eczema) and eye conditions (ie: conjunctivitis or uveitis) risk an intensified response. 

  • People wearing contact lenses may experience increased eye irritation and damage due to chemicals being trapped under the lenses.


  • Avoid use of oils, lotions and detergents because they can trap the chemicals and thereby prolong exposure. Wash your clothes, your hair and your skin beforehand in a detergent-free soap (such as Dr.Bronner's or most eco-friendly products). 

  • We recommend using a water or alcohol-based sunscreen (rather than oil-based). If your choice is between oil-based or nothing, we advocate using the sunscreen. Getting pepper sprayed on top of a sunburn is not fun.

  • We also recommend minimizing skin exposure by covering up as much as possible. This can also protect you from the sun, as can a big 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.

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.



We have been doing trials with pepper spray to find good remedies and have found some things will definitely help minimize the discomfort. None of these are miracle cures; using these remedies will help people to feel better faster, but it will still take time.
For the eyes and mouth: 

We recommend a solution of half liquid antacid (like Maalox) and half water. A spray bottle is ideal but a bottle that has a squirt cap works as well. Always irrigate from the inside corner of the eye towards the outside, with head tilted back and slightly towards the side being rinsed. It seems from our trials that it needs to get into the eye to help. This means that if the sprayed person says it's okay you should try to open their 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 the solution does help. It works great as a mouth rinse too. 

For the skin: 

We recommend canola oil followed by alcohol. Carefully avoiding the eyes, vigorously wipe the skin that was exposed to the chemical with a rag or gauze sponge saturated with canola oil. Follow this immediately with a rubbing of alcohol. Remember that alcohol in the eyes hurts A LOT. Anyone whose eyes you get alcohol in will not be your friend.

Secondary treatments can include: spitting, blowing your nose, coughing up mucous (you don't want to swallow these chemicals!), walking around with your arms outstretched, removing contaminated clothing, and taking a cool shower. In fact, it is essential to shower and wash your clothes (this time in real detergents--no eco-friendly stuff here) as soon as you are able. This chemical 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. 

Remember, it is only temporary, and we are extremely strong.
(Courtesy of

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