Pepper spray is one of the most popular means of self-defense due to its low price, accessibility and ease of use.
PEPPER SPRAY FOR SELF-DEFENSE: EFFECTIVENESS AND RISKS OF USE
Pepper spray come in various sizes, both small, designed to be sprayed on one person or animal in self-defense, and sprays that can be thrown or shot at a specific point: the latter are often used by law enforcement agencies.
The main ingredient of pepper spray is capsaicin, which is found in hot peppers, such as jalapeno and green chili.
The effect of pepper spray on the human body
Pepper spray irritates the eyes, skin and mucous membranes. Exposure to the eyes can lead to pain, redness, lacrimation, inability to open the eyes and sensitivity to light. Exposure to the skin can cause pain, redness, swelling and itching. Inhalation can cause coughing, shortness of breath, irritation of the nose and throat, as well as a runny nose. These effects are usually moderate and temporary and last from a few minutes to several hours. However, more serious injuries are possible, including corneal abrasions, shortness of breath and blisters. People with lung diseases, such as asthma, may experience more serious respiratory effects after exposure to pepper spray.
Careless handling of pepper spray
Doctors often receive calls about unintentional use of pepper spray. Children unintentionally spray themselves or others, teenagers dabble with a spray can (often at school), and adults accidentally spray them indoors.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published recommendations on how to protect yourself and what to do in case of exposure to pepper spray. These include recommendations to leave the room where tear gas was sprayed and go out into the fresh air. If the spray was used indoors, doors and windows should be opened immediately to provide ventilation. In case of contact with the skin, take off the clothes and quickly wash the skin with plenty of soap and water. It is necessary to avoid transferring pepper from clothes to the skin when removing it over the head. The eyes should be rinsed for 10-15 minutes with water at room temperature. Contact lenses should be removed and discarded. Glasses and jewelry should be removed and washed with soap and water. Contaminated clothing should be placed in a plastic bag without touching it with your hands.
Rinse the nose to reduce irritation. Irritation of the throat can be reduced by drinking a cool liquid. If you are experiencing difficulty breathing, chest pain or constant pain in the eyes, immediately consult a doctor.
Use of the pepper spray by the police during training and service
During training, US police officers are exposed to pepper spray. As a result of such exercises, the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration “concluded that exposure to pepper spray during training poses an unacceptable health risk," and some police officers were injured. The symptoms persisted for more than a week. Acute symptoms included asthma, chest pain and loss of consciousness, as well as pain in the eyes.
In another report on fatalities, the use of pepper spray was considered a contributing factor to injury. This is especially true for people with asthma, where the it was determined that it was a contributing factor to two of the 63 well-documented deaths among suspects after pepper spray.
Due to the fact that existing studies consider the short-term controlled effects of pepper spray on healthy people, they cannot be extrapolated to the real world one-to-one, where people with asthma, obesity and many other concomitant diseases are exposed to a longer and more intense exposure. In addition, short exposure from a distance of several meters is unlikely to cause the same harm as intentional long exposure from a close distance.