Breathing Problems (Beyond Coughing) After Exposure to Tear Gas and Pepper Spray

Is breathing difficult? This could be from chest tightness, or swelling from the throat or mouth. If so, call for experienced help. Call out loud, "I've got someone who is having breathing trouble and needs trained assistance." Get them away from the tear gas if possible. Encourage slow deep breaths.

  • It could be from panic. Face the person, get their direct attention, and reassure them they will be OK. Have them calmly breath with you - together. 
  • A comfortable position is usually sitting up, a little hunched forward, hands on their knees.
  • If someone is saying they can't breathe and are talking, ask them if they have asthma or other respiratory problems. If they can speak, worry less, if they can't speak - this may be a respiratory emergency.
  • If the person is an asthmatic, ask them if they have inhaler. If they do, help them use it, (put it in their hand). If no inhaler, get assistance. Don't use someone else's inhaler as there are different medications in each.
  • Have person sit or kneel  in a safe area. Help them find a comfortable position to breathe.
  • If pain is at top of throat- gargle & spit water - but ONLY if the person is able to do so safely without choking. Do not swallow - the chemicals are bad for your gastrointestinal tract, can cause other symptoms for days, and aren't very nutritious.
  • With breathing problems from the back of throat - gargle and swallowing (which may wash down some of the chemicals that gargling can't reach) is OK ONLY if the person can safely swallow. Diarrhea is better than poor breathing.
  • If pain is from chest or behind breast bone, don't bother with water. 
  • All people who have breathing problems after being exposed to gas or pepper need to:
  • Get a proper medical check up;
  • Not return to action;
  • Be observed for the next 12 - 24 hours for re-occurring breathing problems.
  • Stay with them until they recover completely.

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