You carry pepper spray for safety, but there are a number of situations that can result in you being unintentionally exposed to its effects. Whether a strong wind blows the spray in your direction, you have contact with a person you’ve sprayed, you’re an innocent bystander when someone else uses pepper spray or you unintentionally discharge your own pepper spray, if you come in contact with pepper spray, you need to take immediate action to decontaminate yourself.
- Get out of the contaminated area. If a can has discharged nearby, remove yourself from the area to avoid further contamination.
- Immediately apply water to the affected area. If the spray is in your eyes, flush them thoroughly with a stream of clean water. Do not rub your eyes, as doing so can intensify the effects of the spray.
- Remove contact lenses immediately. Hard lenses should be cleaned and soaked in lens solution for 24 hours before reinserting. Soft, disposable lenses should be discarded.
- Use a decontamination spray. Once you’ve thoroughly flushed the affected area with clean water, a decontamination spray can help remove the remaining spray. If you don’t have decontamination spray, alternate the application of wet and dry towels. Blot, don’t rub, to dilute and remove the pepper spray.
- Do not use lotions or creams to soothe the external area. This can trap the spray’s resins against the skin, prolonging discomfort. Shampoos and non-oil-based soaps can help to remove the last of the spray from external areas. Once you’ve washed the area, pat it dry.
- Be patient. Pepper spray is an irritant, and irritated tissue takes a while to calm down, even after the irritant is removed. It could be up to 40 minutes before the effects subside.
Above all, take every step you can to avoid accidental contact with pepper spray. Don’t store it in a car on a hot day, and don’t put it where the can could be crushed or punctured. Even though pepper spray is non-lethal, it’s still a self-defense weapon and should be treated as such.