Physical Effects of Pepper Spray: What happens to someone who gets sprayed?

Pepper spray is one of the best self defense products to use (see our #1 Customer Favorite Pepper Spray Keychain), as it can be easily carried, is not life threatening and is legal in most places. Users don’t need to carry a license to carry it and it comes in a wide variety of styles and sizes (key chain pepper spray, lipstick pepper spray, full cans and more). 

When sprayed, here's what happens:

  • Unlike tear gas products, pepper spray used on those under the influence does work.
  • Causes intense, temporary debilitating burning sensation
  • Causes non-lethal inflammation of all mucous membranes in the eyes, nose, mouth and lungs.
  • Cause eyes to slam shut from intense burning and temporary blindness.
  • The effects will last from 30 minutes to 2 hours.
  • Antidotes for pepper spray include milk and Dawn
  • If you accidentally spray yourself, use soap to get it off your skin.
  • Never apply oil or lotions to areas that have been in contact with pepper spray, as it can trap the capsicum in your skin and cause blisters.

Pepper spray is made up of Oleoresin of Capsicum (OC) which is an agent that causes inflammation and immediate expansion of the capillaries when in contact. When you use pepper spray on someone, their mucous membranes in the eyes, nose, throat and lungs are immediately affected. This can make it difficult to breathe and difficult to see. Most often the sensation is described as intense burning.

Upon the first blast of contact, the eyes will close without warning, start to tear rapidly and start burning intensely. If you happen to accidentally get sprayed in the eyes, don’t panic. The effects are bothersome but not long-term. They will cause you to be debilitated for a period of time, however. Most often, the next symptom is immediate coughing, as your lungs will be inhaling the pepper spray and you may not be able to breathe clearly. Pepper spray can make your coordination awkward as your body tries to recover from the ingestion.

If you do happen to get sprayed trying to defend yourself, be sure to blink rapidly to try flushing the pepper spray out of your eyes quickly. As you do this, be sure to be heading toward safety in an area with clean air. Remove your clothing as soon as possible and wash all areas of your body.

Why Use Pepper Spray?

Pepper spray can disable an attacker long enough for you to get to safety if you are in a threatening situation where you need to defend yourself.  However, the effects aren’t long term and won’t kill the attacker. Legal use of pepper spray is only as a self defense tool.Many people feel more comfortable carrying pepper spray than deadly weapons because they feel they would more likely use the spray, as opposed to using a gun or knife. With pepper spray available in a wide variety of styles, such as the key chain style more discreet styles like lipsticks and jogging weights, it’s a useful self defense tool you can take with you almost anywhere.

History of Pepper Spray

The concept was first developed in 1870 in Germany and was basically Mace or teargas. However, pepper spray got its start in ancient China where ground up cayenne was put into rice paper and thrown into an attacker’s face during battle. In America, pepper spray was first used by mail carriers to avoid dog attacks and is now wildly used by civilians and police.