#Healthcare

What To Do If You Are Exposed To Tear Gas

As protests continue in America and beyond, we explain what to do if police target you with tear gas and what you really should NOT do.

|Jun 5|magazine8 min read

What is tear gas?

Tear gas, formally known as a lachrymator agent or lachrymator (from the Latin lacrima, meaning "tear"), sometimes more known as mace, is a chemical weapon that causes severe eye and respiratory pain, skin irritation, bleeding, and blindness. In the eye, it stimulates the nerves of the lacrimal gland to produce tears.

If it reaches your eyes, tear gas can cause excessive tearing, burning or blurred vision, according to the CDC.

The irritant can cause a runny nose, as well as a burning sensation inside the nose. It can also cause difficulty swallowing as well as chest tightness, coughing, shortness of breath and a feeling of choking.

For those who are exposed to riot control agents at close proximity or in a closed-in space, there can be more long-term effects including blindness, glaucoma or respiratory failure.

What you can do:

If it's deployed, keep a level head, and make sure that you remain calm.

After removing yourself from the immediate danger, you can apply a liquid antacid and water mixture that includes is a 50/50 mixture of water and either magnesium hydroxide and aluminium hydroxide.

If the first option is not available, it is recommended that you use refrigerated milk, however, this may not be accessible. However you MUST NOT pour the milk directly on to your eyes, this will cause the irritation to get worse and worse. 

Another option is a mixture of water and sodium bicarbonate (baking soda).

Baking soda is cheaper and easier to transport and store than refrigerated milk and can be mixed with water wherever you are.

As soon as you're able, it's important to wash your skin with lots of soap and water. After you've provided immediate first aid for tear gas, you should remove any article of clothing that may have tear gas on it. It's better to cut it off rather than pull it off over your head so it does not make contact with your face. You should then place your exposed clothing in a plastic bag, seal the bag and then place that bag inside another plastic bag in order to prevent others from being exposed to the harmful chemical.

How to be prepared:

Douša, the Park Avenue Christian Church pastor, recommended a list of items to prepare yourself if tear gas is deployed to break up a peaceful protest or if an event becomes violent:

- Goggles: To prevent tear gas from getting into your eyes.

- Face shield: Another protection against tear gas for your eyes, nose, mouth, skin and lungs.

- Comfortable footwear: Marches and protests involve a lot of walking, and you'll want to also be ready if you have to run.

- Bike helmets: To protect your head if objects are being thrown or someone hits you.

- An umbrella: A defence against rubber bullets.

- ID, health insurance and cash: If you need to go to the hospital, talk with police officers or have other incidental expenses.

How you can help the BLM movement:

George Floyd, a 46-year-old bouncer, was killed on Monday, May 25 by Derek Chauvin, a police officer, who pressed his knee into Mr Floyd's neck until he died while other police officers watched. Footage of the killing, taken by a bystander, showed Floyd lying face down and handcuffed, groaning for help and repeatedly saying, "please, I can't breathe," before becoming motionless.

This death and constant racism towards the black community has very rightly so angered many, many people.

We know that many of you will want to help, but what if you aren't in America and can't partake in the protest? Here is what you can do to help this movement:

Sign this "Justice for George Floyd" petition, here.

Support black creators and business owners. 

Donate to the black lives matter fund, here

Remember, we are all in this together