The patient may have been in a riot dispersed by
the police, or accidently sprayed by his own can
of Mace. He complains of burning of the eyes,
nose, mouth, and skin; tearing and inability to
open eyes because of the severe stinging;
sneezing, coughing, a runny nose, and perhaps a metallic taste with a burning sensation of the tongue, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pains. These signs and symptoms last for 15-30 minutes after exposure. Redness and edema may be noted from one to two days following exposure to these agents.
What to do:
Segregate victims lest they contaminate others. Medical personnel should don gowns, gloves, and masks, and help victims remove contaminated clothes (which should be placed in plastic bags and sealed) and shower with soap and water to
remove tear gas from their skin. Exposed eyes should be irrigated with copious amounts of tepid water for at least fifteen minutes.
If eye pain lasts longer than 15-20 minutes,
examine with fluorescein for corneal erosions,
which may be produced by tear gas.
Look for signs of, and warn patient about,
allergic reactions to tear gas, including
bronchospasm and contact dermatitis.
Do not rush to help or allow other helpers to
rush in heedlessly and themselves become
Agents commonly used as tear gas include CN or
Mace, which is sprayed in a weak water solution,
CS which is burned, and produces symptoms as long
as the victim is in the smoke, and CR which is
more potent and longer lasting. Another agent in
personal protection spray canisters is capsicum
powder, the active ingredient in hot peppers,
which is handled in the same fashion above.