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5.04 Tear Gas Exposure (Lacrimators)


Presentation

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:

Discussion

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.

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from Buttaravoli & Stair: COMMON SIMPLE EMERGENCIES
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Craig Feied, MD
Mark Smith, MD
Jon Handler, MD
Michael Gillam, MD