With all the political turmoil happening around the world, tear gas exposure is becoming an everyday reality, especially if you find yourself on the street in the midst of a riot. It is crucial to know how to handle and how to treat tear gas exposure the moment you get in contact with this potentially devastating gas. But first, let’s take a look at what are the most common types of tear gas and when is it used.
Types of Tear Gas
The Lachrymator agent, commonly known as tear gas, is a type of chemical weapon that can cause substantial eye pain and can negatively affect the respiratory system. Tear gas can also cause coughing, skin irritations, disorientation, excessive tearing, and in some cases even blindness. Luckily, the effects are only temporary and usually wear down after a couple of hours.
The two most common types of tear gas are CS (chlorobenzylidene malononitrile) and CN (chloroacetophenone). Exposure to any of these types of gas will stimulate the nerves of the lacrimal gland, which in turn will produce tears, hence the name “tear gas”.They are often used by law enforcement to subdue a combative crowd and de-escalate a volatile situation. You’ll most commonly see them in the form of a grenade or an aerosol can due to how well they disperse the irritating agent into the air.
Another type of tear gas worth mentioning is Pepper spray. This inflammatory agent is different in the sense that it’s mostly made of chili peppers and corn oil and that it is only effective if you hit someone with it directly in the face. Pepper spray is most commonly used by individuals for self-defense purposes but its use remains somewhat controversial.
First Steps in Tear Gas Remedy
1. Close your eyes
In case you haven’t been directly exposed to the gas, you should definitely try closing your eyes and keep them closed as long as the situation allows it. Both CS and CN are potent irritants that can quickly make their way into your eyes and cause an intense burning sensation. CS is considered to be the stronger of the two, but the effects of this type of tear gas wear off quicker. Whichever you may be exposed to, keeping your eyes closed as much as possible will minimize the symptoms.
2. Don’t Breathe
If you see a tear gas grenade heading your way you better be holding your breath because inhaling this nasty gas will feel like you just swallowed a can full of nails. In some cases, tear gas can even induce severe nausea and cause vomiting. Your best bet is to close your eyes and hold your breath as long as you can in order to minimize the exposure and keep the symptoms in control until you get proper treatment.
3. Get Out of the Area and Find Fresh Air
Speaking of tear gas treatment, there is no specific antidote for immediately resolving negative symptoms of tear gas exposure. Your goal should be to get out of the area as quickly as you can and try to locate a safe spot. A breeze of fresh air and some cold water to rinse your eyes are the only tear gas antidote available.
4. Get Rid of Your Clothes
Once you are in a safe spot, continue rinsing your eyes with cold water and start removing your clothes. Even if you were not caught in the middle of a concentrated cloud of tear gas, your clothes are full of small particles that can cause severe skin irritations. Also, do not use hot water when washing your face and body because it will only open the pores on your skin, allowing the chemicals from the gas to cause even more damage.
Here’s a couple of additional things to remember when exposed to tear gas:
- Remove your contacts as they will more than likely be covered in dangerous chemicals.
- Stay calm and try not to panic.
- Don’t wait, act quickly.
- Remind yourself of the crucial steps listed in this article.
What Happens to the Area Affected by Tear Gas?
We mentioned that the negative effects of tear gas on humans are only temporary and usually disappear after a few hours post-exposure. However, the area where the concentrated gas started spreading from can be hazardous even weeks after the initial exposure if not properly cleaned and neutralized. Here at Spaulding Decon, we have specially trained tear gas cleaning crews that are ready to handle the messy and dangerous nature of cleaning these types of sites. If the area you live in has recently been exposed to some type of tearing agent, leave it to the professionals to clean it up and make the area safe again.