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What to Do if You’re Pepper-Sprayed

The most important tip, they say, is not to take a shower — yet. If you do, the pepper spray will run to your genitals and make things worse. Instead, take care of some initial things, like removing contact lenses, finding your asthma inhaler (if needed), and flushing your face with water.

Pepper spray is an oil extracted from peppers called oleoresin capsicum. It’s the stuff that makes peppers hot. “It will stick to your skin like super glue,” says Dr. Ernest Brown, a family doctor in Washington, D.C. He advises to use Milk Of Magnesia diluted with equal parts water to wash out your eyes. It’s an antacid found in most drug stores and usually sold in a blue bottle. If you don’t have this on hand, he says that tear-free baby shampoo also works.

Irrigation should be done for at least 15 minutes and with a device that uses pressure. A syringe or even a squirt gun works. When you’re ready to take a shower after flushing your eyes, do so in your clothes. Leave your underwear on until the very end to avoid the pepper oil from soaking your genitals. Wash and rinse that area last.

When handling your contaminated clothes, wear gloves. The pepper oil is still on them and must be laundered out and done so separate from other laundry.

Having a game plan beforehand is strongly advised, says one journalist who has had military experience with pepper spray. If sprayed, don’t run. Your eyes will involuntarily shut and running would be dangerous. Sit down until you can find water to flush your eyes. A tight-fitting mask also will help reduce the spray’s effect.

While pepper spray is painful, it usually subsides within two hours, the experts say. 


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