Pepper Spray

Julie Weber Is This A Poison

Toxicity: Pepper spray is mostly a strong irritant that causes immediate pain and stinging which is expected to improve in a relatively short period of time.

Expected symptoms: An immediate and intense burning sensation to the affected area such as watering and stinging of the eyes, coughing, choking, runny nose, a burning sensation of the lungs, and shortness of breath. The effects of pepper spray are not expected to cause permanent damage.

What to do: Wash several times with warm water and soap. Then use cold water soaks to reduce the burning pain. If swallowed, wipe out the mouth with a wet wash cloth or rinse the mouth with water and drink sips of cold milk or fruit juice. Additional recommendations will be provided once the poison center is called.

Note: If an adult or your child has gotten pepper spray into their eyes, call the Missouri Poison Center now for help on how to rinse the eyes.

Quick Facts about pepper spray:

Pepper sprays are formulated with oleoresin capsicum, a natural component of hot pepper plants.  It is used for self-defense in the form of a spray and is also used in some topical arthritis rubs. The spray allows the victim to separate from the attacker and gives them time to escape.

Capsaicin is a strong irritant which causes a reaction on contact. Although the effects of the spray can persist about 30 minutes to several hours, long-term issues are not expected. When sprayed in the face, symptoms can include:

  • Pain that forces the eyes closed and reduced eyesight with stinging and burning.
  • A burning sensation in the throat accompanied by choking, coughing and difficulty breathing.
  • Sensitivity to warmth and touch, redness and burning pain to the exposed skin.

Note:  Pepper spray is similar to mace but there are some important differences. Mace is a synthetic (“man-made”) chemical and is sometimes referred to as tear gas. It takes up to 30 seconds to “kick in” compared to pepper spray which causes an immediate reaction. Decontamination or removal of mace from the skin is difficult because the chemical residue can last for days.

If someone has been accidentally sprayed with pepper spray, do not panic. Gently wash irritated skin several times with soap and warm water – as warm as tolerated because it is better at removing capsaicin but may increase discomfort. Then, repeated cool water soaks may help relieve burning sensation or irritation. Pat dry with a towel; do not rub. If swallowed, rinse the mouth several times with water or wipe out with a soft, wet cloth. Sipping cold milk or fruit juice can help relieve pain. If the eyes are exposed, rinse with cool tap water and call the Missouri Poison Center right away for further instructions!

There are additional rinses and substances that can help relieve pain so call the Missouri Poison Center right away at 1-800-222-1222.  The poison center is open all day, every day for poisoning emergencies and questions.

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