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Guest Article: Pepper Spray Decontamination and Medical Treatment, by D.F.

Pepper spray, also known as OC spray (from “Oleoresin Capsicum”), OC gas, and capsicum spray, is a lachrymatory agent (a chemical compound that irritates the eyes to cause tears, pain, and even temporary blindness), and it is used in riot control, crowd control, and personal self-defense, including defense against dogs and bears. Its inflammatory effects cause the eyes to close, taking away vision. This temporary blindness allows officers to more easily restrain subjects and permits persons using pepper spray for self-defense an opportunity to escape. (The following is the regimen I use for decon after field training in the agencies I work with.) First, the patient is warned to not rub their eyes, since this increases burn and exposure to active oils in the spray. The eyes and face are then rinsed with a 50% to 50% ratio of cool water and Maalox– plain, unflavored Maalox. The aluminum hydroxide and magnesium hydroxide in the Maalox immediately start to decrease pain by blocking the burning sensation; the exact mechanism is unknown but is suspected to be a chemical binding, like the antacid effect and neutralizing effect. This temporary cessation of pain allows for further treatment. Dawn dish detergent [1] and cool water are used 50% to 50% to wash the entire outside face, until all oils from the pepper gas are removed. Then, follow-up washing with luke warm water alone is done for 10 minutes, and the eyes are individually rinsed with Bausch and Lomb [2] or other occular wash; we use the rinse agent only and nothing containing glycerin, since this is oil-based and would cause particles of Oleoresin Capsicum to reactivate or remain fixed in the eye.

There are other treatment protocols, like MOFIBA– mineral oil [3] followed immediately by alcohol. Firmly wipe the pepper spray off the skin using a gauze pad, clean cloth, or paper towel moistened well with mineral oil. (The oil binds to the pepper spray, making it easier to remove.) Then, immediately wipe off all the mineral oil with a fresh gauze pad or cloth moistened well with isopropyl rubbing alcohol (the kind you can buy in a drugstore). If a large area of the skin is exposed, do small sections at a time in order to get the mineral oil off as quickly as possible. Some people like to follow with a water rinse, since alcohol can irritate the skin.

I just thought everyone would like to know of a regimen that is field tested and seems to work very well. This treatment was field tested in a law enforcement agency I recently retired from. Therefore, the regimen is proven and not subject to conjecture. This information could be useful in a TEOTWAWKI [4] situation, since criminals are fond of using pepper gas to disable their victims, and an attack with pepper agent might precede a more forceful attack. Hence, being able to quickly and effectively decontaminate could save your family’s lives.

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#1 Comment By anonymous On June 11, 2017 @ 5:27 pm

inadvertently spritzed a short burst of udap bear repellent in my bedroom two months ago and despite multiple washes with dawn and tide and a more gentle trader joes detergent unable to get the oc out of the fabrics … have googled this for oc dissipation/removal and can find nothing ~ also spoke to udap and the oc is supposed to be gone by now … do you have any suggestions? i would so appreciate your help with this