Podcast 785: Pepper Spray - The Emergency Medical Minute

Podcast 785: Pepper Spray

Contributor: Jared Scott, MD

Educational Pearls:

  • Pepper spray is a chemical irritant derived from oleoresin capsicum (OC), an extract from pepper plants. It can be used by police for riot or crowd control, or by individuals for self defense.  
  • In the event of an exposure, those affected should immediately disperse from the area, remove contact lenses with clean or gloved hands, and remove contaminated clothing. 
  • Pepper spray can spread from patients to providers by contact. When caring for those exposed, providers should use PPE including gloves and should double bag personal belongings.   
  • For patient management consider the following: 
    • If the eyes are affected, first remove contacts then irrigate with clean water. Use proparacaine drops for relief. 
    • Clean exposed skin thoroughly with soap and water.   
    • Inhalation and ingestion may cause nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath and generalized anxiety from discomfort. Treatment can include antiemetics and anxiolytics. Symptoms may persist for many days.

References

Schep LJ, Slaughter RJ, McBride DI. Riot control agents: the tear gases CN, CS and OC-a medical review. J R Army Med Corps. 2015;161(2):94-99. doi:10.1136/jramc-2013-000165

Tidwell RD, Wills BK. Tear Gas and Pepper Spray Toxicity. [Updated 2022 Jan 10]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK544263/

 

Summarized by Kirsten Hughes, MS4 | Edited by John Spartz MS4 & Erik Verzemnieks, MD

 

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