If you know you are going to be in an area that is prone to protests and tear gas, a little preparation is called for.
- 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).
- Don’t put vaseline, mineral oil, oil-based sunscreen or moisturizers on skin as they can trap chemicals.
- Don’t wear contact lenses, which can trap irritating chemicals underneath.
- Use a water or alcohol-based sunscreen (rather than oil-based). If your choice is between oil-based or nothing, use the sunscreen. Getting pepper sprayed on top of a sunburn is not fun.
- Minimize skin exposure by covering up as much as possible.
- Gas masks provide the best facial protection, if properly fitted and sealed.
- A bandanna soaked in water or vinegar and tied tightly around the nose and mouth is a last resort, but remember that it is merely a barrier and not a filter and so won’t do much for long-term protection.
- For protecting your eyes, a shatter-resistant swim goggles work well, as they have a tight seal. Most goggles have air holes to prevent fogging–fill these with epoxy. Covering these holes with duct tape can work in a pinch, though not for long term protection. Try them on with your respirator or bandanna to ensure that they are compatible and that both will provide a tight seal.
HOW TO DEAL WITH EXPOSURE
- Get out of there! As quickly and calmly as you can, remove yourself from the gas-filled area.
- STAY CALM. Panicking increases the irritation. Breathe slowly.
- If you see it coming or get a warning, put on protective gear, if able, try to move away or get upwind.
- Face the wind. Fresh air will help blow excess tear gas powder off of you and will prevent it from blowing back into your mouth or eyes.
- 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, use a solution of half liquid antacid (like Maalox) and half cold water to rinse. Rinse your eyes from the inner to the outer corner, with head tilted back and slightly towards the side being rinsed. Avoid allowing the contaminated water to run onto your skin or clothes. A spray bottle is ideal but a bottle that has a squirt cap works as well.
- For the skin, use 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. Rinse your clothing and body with cold water. DO NOT use hot water. Using hot water will open your pores and allow the chemicals to seep further in, resulting in even more skin irritation.
- Herbal Remedies: Rescue Remedy (made from an essence of five flowers) is a popular and effective remedy. It is available in an alcohol-based liquid, pastilles, spray, or cream. For a DIY-remedy, apply a cooled tea compress of calendula, lavender, chamomile, and/or marshmallow to affected areas.