Day 290: A guide for treating tear gas
Well this won’t end and frankly it shouldn’t end until there are sweeping changes to institutions who refuse to make those changes. In the meantime good and innocent people are being subject to CS gas (tear gas) and there are a lot of ways people are suggesting you treat it, some are better than others. Let’s talk about what CS gas does and how to treat it best.
Gas mask training is a part of Marine boot camp. We don our gas masks, and about 20 of us at a time step into a room full of concentrated CS gas, the only exit is guarded by a pair of Marines. Then we remove our masks. At first it isn’t for long, you hold your breath, put the mask on, clear it, and you’re good. Eventually you remove it longer than you can hold your breath and then the problem starts.
Breathing CS gas causes you to feel like there is suddenly no air in your lungs. It burns, it hurts, and if you’ve never had the experience it’s hard to describe the feeling. Your heart begins to race, you want to breathe so instinctively you take another breath hoping it will fix the issue.
It doesn’t, instead it makes it worse. You panic and because your heart is racing you need air. There is none to be found. If you are lucky during boot camp, while you are in this room no one will freak out and try to escape. If someone does panic, you’re rewarded by staying in this room longer.
If this sounds like torture, that’s because it is.
Once you are finally allowed to exit the room, you are told not to touch your face. Your eyes run, your nose runs, your mouth feels dry, you have snot running down your face, and you can’t touch anything. Not yet.
Unfortunately, the people peacefully protesting don’t sign up to be gassed. It is forced on them and there are a lot of ways they are treating this gas exposure. Some of them are better than others. While this isn’t the only way you could treat this, it is – in my opinion – one of the best ways.
First understand that these gases are oil based. Water and oil don’t mix, so it takes a lot of water to remove them from your face and while you’re going to want to rub your eyes in the hopes of making it better, you don’t want to do this. It WILL make it worse.
You’re going to want to use soap. Just a little bit, preferably something gentle, you’ve already been through an experience, you don’t need to exacerbate that. Even a drop of soap in a bottle of water will help substantially.
Rinse a lot! Again, if you don’t have someone doing the washing for you, don’t touch your face. While you only feel it on your face, your whole body is now covered in a thin oily layer of these chemical irritants. If you need to treat yourself try to remember to wash your hands first, then your face. Also, change your clothes as soon as possible, they are now covered in that thin layer of oil as well.
People often try to use milk to help. This is a bad idea for a lot of reasons, you shouldn’t be putting milk on your face. More importantly it does nothing for the oil and the chemicals that are in CS type gases are NOT made with capsaicin like some pepper sprays are. Furthermore, it doesn’t remove the oil that you are now covered in. In other words, it won’t do anything to help the situation and instead it could cause an infection.
Stay safe, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Mask up if you can and help others if you are in a position to do so.
TL;DR – Use drop of soap in a water bottle to cut through the oil that you are now covered in from the CS gas. Don’t use milk, it won’t help and can actually make things worse. Change your clothes. Help others if you can.