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Pepper Spray, also known as OC (Oleoresin Capsicum) spray, is a widely used self-defense tool that can cause temporary incapacitation when sprayed on an individual’s face or body. While it serves as an effective means of protection, accidental exposure or misuse can result in discomfort and distress. While in most cases the pain and discomfort from pepper spray will resolve itself within 30 minutes, there are steps you can take to help alleviate the symptoms. 

Prioritize Your Safety and Limit Exposure

In the event of pepper spray exposure, the first and most crucial step is to prioritize your safety. If you or someone else has been exposed, quickly move away from the area where the spray was discharged to avoid further exposure to the irritants. If indoors, immediately leave the enclosed space and move to a well-ventilated area to allow fresh air to reduce the concentration of the irritant substances.Do Not Rub the Affected Area!

Do Not Rub the Affected Area!

When exposed to pepper spray, the affected person may experience intense burning, stinging, and eye irritation. As instinctual and natural as it may seem, it is essential not to rub or touch the affected area, especially the eyes, as this can spread the active irritants and worsen the associated discomfort. It is crucial to keep hands away from the face to prevent further contamination of sensitive areas.

Flush Eyes with Water

One of the most advised ways to neutralize and counteract pepper spray’s effects on the eyes is to rinse them with cool water. If possible, use a gentle stream of water from a faucet, hose, or even a showerhead to flush the eyes thoroughly for around 15-20 minutes. Ensure that the water is of a comfortable temperature, as hot water can intensify the burning sensation. Angle the head slightly downward while rinsing to prevent the irritants from flowing back into the eyes and increasing exposure.

Keep Your Eyes Open During Rinsing

While flushing the eyes, make a conscious effort to keep them open. Keeping the eyes open ensures that the water reaches all areas that may have come into contact with the spray. Although it may be challenging due to the associated discomfort, blinking excessively or holding the eyes tightly shut may hinder the process of flushing away the irritants.

Remove Contaminated Clothing

If any clothing has been exposed to pepper spray, it is essential to remove it carefully to avoid further spreading the irritants. Avoid pulling contaminated clothing over the head, as this can cause the irritants to come into contact with the face and intensify the discomfort. Instead, cut off the clothing or gently remove it to prevent further exposure.

Avoid Oil-Based Remedies

Despite common advice and misconceptions, oil-based remedies like milk, creams, or oils are not recommended for treating pepper spray exposure. Capsaicin, the active component of pepper spray, is not soluble in water, but it can be dissolved in oils. Applying oil-based substances to the affected area can trap the capsaicin, makeing it harder to wash away, intensifying the discomfort.

Use a Mild Soap Solution

After rinsing the affected area with water, using a mild soap solution can help remove any remaining residue. Mix a small amount of mild liquid soap with water to create a solution. Gently wash the exposed skin, ensuring not to get soap into the eyes while washing the face. Rinse thoroughly with water to remove the soap afterward. 

Apply a Cold Compress

A cold compress can provide soothing relief for the burning sensation and help reduce swelling caused by Capsaicin exposure. Use a clean cloth or ice pack wrapped in a thin towel and apply it gently to the affected area for short intervals. Avoid direct contact with the skin, as extreme cold can cause damage. Allow the skin to rest for a few minutes between applications.

Seek Medical Attention

If the irritation persists or worsens despite following the above steps, it is crucial to seek medical attention promptly. Medical professionals can provide appropriate treatment and assess the extent of exposure to ensure there are no underlying complications. They may also prescribe medicated eye drops or ointments to aid in recovery and alleviate discomfort.

Decontamination Products

Some decontamination products, such as the MACE brand OC Relief Decontamination Spray can help as well. These specialty formulated products contain natural herbal extracts or other active ingredients to help soothe the areas of exposure and reduce decontamination time. While not an instant fix, they can be an effective tool to help reduce the pain and discomfort associated with exposure to Oleoresin Capsicum. 

Final Thoughts

Pepper spray exposure can be distressing and uncomfortable, but with proper treatment and care, its effects can be alleviated swiftly. Always prioritize safety by moving away from the sprayed area and avoiding rubbing the affected skin or eyes. Remember to flush the eyes thoroughly with cool water, remove contaminated clothing with care to limit further exposure, and refrain from using oil-based remedies. A mild soap solution can help remove residue, while a cold compress provides soothing relief for the burning sensation.

If the irritation persists, seeking medical attention is essential to ensure proper care and recovery. It is helpfull as well to remeber that decontamination products such as the MACE brand OC Relief Decontamination Spray can help improve and quicken recovery. Furthermore, remember that pepper spray is a potent self-defense tool that should be used responsibly and only in situations where it is legally permissible and necessary to protect yourself or others from harm.

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