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Tear Gas Is Not Just "Tear-Inducing": 3 Emergency Steps to Know

The tear gas, also known as tear gas, is a non-lethal chemical weapon. Although it is called a "non-lethal" weapon, tear gas may cause lasting health hazards for some people, even endangering their lives. Chemical substances commonly used in tear gas include CS, CR, CN, and capsaicin. Although there has not been detailed research on the inherent toxicity of tear gas components, safety data to date show that these components have "severe toxicity".

Tear gas can cause the following symptoms in the human body:

  • Eyes: burning pain, tearing, redness, eyelid spasms; large doses may cause chemical injury to the eyes.

  • Skin: tingling, redness, and even burns.

  • Respiratory system: difficulty breathing, coughing, burning pain in the throat and nasal cavity, and may even lead to suffocation or lung disease.

  • Other symptoms: runny nose, drooling, nausea and vomiting, cold sweats, abdominal pain and diarrhea, and fainting.

For healthy individuals, the effect of tear gas powder is temporary. But depending on the duration of exposure, the amount inhaled, and the individual's physical condition, the damage may be lasting. Particularly for patients with asthma and other diseases, inhalation of tear gas is even more dangerous. This review shows that tear gas can cause damage to the lungs, skin, and eyes, especially for those with chronic diseases, and there is a high risk of complications; high concentration, long exposure time, or tear gas fired in enclosed spaces may cause serious injuries, even death. Tear gas has caused serious injuries and even deaths in Egypt, Turkey, Brazil and other places.

The following groups of people should be especially vigilant against tear gas:

  • Patients with respiratory diseases such as asthma and emphysema.

  • The elderly, children, and pregnant women.

  • Immunocompromised individuals with cancer, lupus erythematosus, and other diseases.

  • People with skin or eye diseases.

Three steps for self-help treatment when encountering tear gas:

When encountering tear gas, do not panic. Evacuate the area where the tear gas was released as soon as possible in an orderly manner, and take the following first aid measures:

  • Wash your eyes and skin with plenty of water, and expel tear gas chemical substances from the respiratory system by coughing, spitting, and blowing your nose. If there is discomfort in the eyes or skin, avoid scratching.

  • Change clothes as soon as possible.

  • Take a thorough shower at home, rinse your eyes with flowing water (or physiological saline with a small amount of salt), and wash your skin with soap and water.

Usually, the symptoms will improve significantly after one hour of treatment. However, some people may need emergency treatment due to long exposure time or high concentration of tear gas. During emergency treatment, doctors usually wash the patient's eyes and shower, remove the chemical substances; provide oxygen to ensure smooth breathing; and perform other trauma treatments.

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