Can pepper spray kill you?

In this brief article, we will answer the question, “Can pepper spray kill you?” and provide information on the effects of pepper spray, complications associated with pepper spray, how you can relieve yourself when exposed to pepper spray as well as why it is used.

Can pepper spray kill you?

No, pepper spray cannot kill you. Death because of pepper spray is rare and was only observed in individuals with asthma or other respiratory issues in multiple studies.

Pepper spray and tear gas come under the category of lacrimator. Lacrimators irritate eyes and cause them to produce tears. Capsaicin is an ingredient present in chilies. However, there is a higher concentration of capsaicin in pepper sprays as well.

The heat present in pepper spray can be measured using SHU or Scoville Heat Units scale. A pepper spray ranges between 500,000 and 2 million SHU. All these factors have made the use of pepper spray controversial.

What are some effects of pepper spray?

When pepper spray comes in contact with an individual, they can experience chest pain, sneezing, coughing, and wheezing. There can also be chest pain experienced. 

Apart from this, dizziness, difficulty breathing, inability to speak or breathe, loss of consciousness, burns, or rashes on the skin can be other effects of pepper spray.

In some cases, there can be corneal issues or scratches on eyeballs though this is pretty rare. Such scratches usually occur when an individual rubs their eyes.

Usually, the effects of pepper spray can go away within 30 minutes. Rinsing one’s face with water can also help in subsiding the symptoms.

Individuals who suffer from asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD), or other respiratory issues can suffer from prolonged symptoms of coughing and difficulty breathing.

In rare instances, cyanosis can be observed wherein there can be bluish skin discoloration because of reduced blood flow or oxygen.

What can be some complications associated with the use of pepper spray?

Some compilations associated with using pepper spray include eye, respiratory tract, or skin injuries.

It is imperative to admit a person to the hospital if symptoms of exposure to pepper spray last for more than 45 minutes.

What can be done if you are exposed to pepper spray?

There is no proper cure for pepper spray. You can however try to relieve yourself by washing the affected areas with water.

If you are wearing contact lenses, remove them first before washing your eyes with water. This is because the lens can prevent chemicals from exiting your eyes by trapping them. This can further worsen the symptoms.

While washing your face, make sure to tilt your head down. The affected eye should be facing down, significantly if only one of your eyes has been affected. This can prevent the chemicals from affecting the other eye.

While rinsing the eyes, look up, down, and to the sides. This will help you flush chemicals from every side of the eye.

Make sure to move into an area containing a lot of fresh air. Do not wash affected areas with soap as this might irritate you.

Remove clothes exposed to pepper spray as they can further worsen the condition. Do not touch areas containing pepper spray as it can get introduced to your skin. Blink your eyes well to help flush them out of your eyes.

Some individuals use wipes or saline solutions to get rid of the chemicals present in pepper spray. Diphoterine can be one of the saline solutions which can remove chemicals from the eyes. 

Baby shampoos can be mixed with saline to further soothe the eyes. Milk also seems to be effective. Avoid applying lotions or creams to affected areas as there can be irritation. It can further trap the chemicals in your skin causing more discomfort and pain.

If you are planning to attend protests or demonstrations, wear goggles or glasses instead of contact lenses. 

Why is pepper spray used?

Pepper spray was commonly used by law enforcement agencies to disperse a group of protesters or crowds.

When pepper spray comes in contact with an individual’s face, it can result in pain which can blind them. This allows the police to arrest people.

The use of pepper spray has been controversial. Many people claim that pepper spray is used even in peaceful demonstrations and is a human rights violation. Apart from this, pepper spray can also be used as a form of self-defense by certain individuals. 


In this brief article, we have answered the question, “Can pepper spray kill you?” and provided information on the effects of pepper spray, complications associated with pepper spray, how you can relieve yourself when exposed to pepper spray as well as why it is used.


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