How Does Pepper Spray Work?

Pepper spray is a common and highly potent irritant (capsaicin) that causes the eyes, nose, throat, skin, and respiratory tract to react. This spray has been used as an agent of non-lethal self-defense and law enforcement in various temperatures. 

Its use in law enforcement is not without controversy; while claiming no adverse health effects or civil rights violations when used properly, its use to forcibly restrain individuals was criticized by Amnesty International in 2008. It is a standard and highly potent irritant (capsaicin) that causes the eyes, nose, throat, skin, and respiratory tract to react.  

Mace VS Pepper Spray

There are two types of protection for women and girls. Mace is used more in a combat situation, where pepper spray is used to keep someone at a distance. One has a stinging effect, the other causes temporary blindness. Both have proven to be effective in stopping an attacker.

Mace is made up of three chemicals: lachrymatory agent (red pepper), alcohol, and freon propellant. The red pepper causes your eyes to water profusely which prevents you from being able to see clearly or at all for a short period of time. Mace is used through a small handheld aerosol can. To use it, you point the nozzle at your attacker and spray. In the past, the mace was available as a foam but has been discontinued due to problems with the effectiveness of the foam.

While pepper spray is made of a mixture of oil and vinegar, the mace is just a solid chemical.
The stinging effect of this spray causes your eyes to water and sting. The amount of time you are affected depends on the amount of pepper in the can. Pepper is made up of small capsaicin molecules that attach themselves to any open skin. 

These small molecules attach to the openings in your nerve endings causing you pain and temporary blindness. The effects are temporary as they wear off over a period of time (usually 5-10 minutes). Hot chili peppers contain one chemical called capsaicin, which blocks nerve impulses from reaching your body's pain sensors.

Pepper Spray in the Past

This spray was created by accident. In the early 1800s, pepper was first used as a tonic to cure indigestion. The food industry soon learned about the amazing health benefits of pepper and started using it for its unique flavor. 

By the 1880s, wholesale dealers of pepper became aware of its use in medicine and began marketing it to treat various ailments such as indigestion, asthma, coughs, and sore throats. In 1963, the spray was developed as an irritant to control "ruffians" in brawls at remote airfields in Texas by an airman stationed at Fairfield Air Force Base. This new product was called "pepper spray". 

After its success in the 1960s, law enforcement and the military soon discovered that pepper spray was one of the most powerful self defense weapons. In 1974, Neil Herman developed the first riot control hand-held aerosol unit for the Los Angeles Police Department to use against suspects in mass protests and demonstrations.

Pepper Spray

How Does the Pepper Spray Work?

Pepper spray is a self-defense weapon used to ward off assailants. It is an effective tool to use because pepper spraying causes the assailant’s eyes, nose, and throat to get irritated and swell shut, making it hard or impossible for them to see, breathe or talk. Many people think that this spray just makes someone's eyes water but this isn't the case at all. 

The active ingredients in this spray are derived from natural plant sources such as chile peppers, cayenne peppers, and others that have been studied for many years for their medicinal value. These active ingredients are called capsaicinoids (Capsaicin and related compounds). 

Capsaicin is the main ingredient included in this spray and when inhaled or applied to the skin, it produces a sneeze-like reflex causing an involuntary closing of the eyes, uncontrollable coughing, choking, and shortness of breath. Some other effects that the spray can have on an assailant include tremors, increased salivation, and a burning sensation in the skin. 

The assailant will experience these effects for 30 minutes to 1 hour after being sprayed by the product. The effects can also cause temporary blindness, which someone can use as a way to break away from an assailant and/or run for help. The capsaicin derived from natural sources is not as potent as these sprays created synthetically but it is still an effective deterrent that causes a burning sensation when breathed in or applied to the skin.

Also Read: Does Pepper Spray Expire?

What Happens When People Get Pepper Sprayed?

These sprays are less lethal weapons that can be life savers and have been in use for a long time. In the United States, pepper sprays have been used on people since 1968, when they became popular after their use during the civil rights movement. This spray is a common defense against aggression and is considered an alternative to gun violence. 

The impact of these sprays ranges from just one burst of spray to incapacitating a person so they cannot effectively fight back. These sprays that contain capsaicin will initially cause pain from burning which may cause temporary blindness and coughing but will produce no lingering health effects such as inflammation or damage to the lungs or eyes like some other types of spray.

This spray can be dipped or sprayed on an attacker's face, eyes, and mouth. The spray is not meant to be used directly on the skin but can be splashed onto the skin from a short distance. It is most effective when the spray is loaded into a cartridge that resembles a handgun and shot at the attacker. 

This minimizes the risk of death or serious injury as the shooter pours out large amounts of pepper spraying while aiming with a handgun; it also keeps them safe by eliminating the chance of being shot. These sprays that are loaded into cartridges do not pose any risk to bystanders, unlike those that are carried in bags that are held by civilians.

Pepper spray

Some Serious Pepper Spray Risks

The spray can stop an attacker in his tracks, but it can also cause some serious pain. The burning sensation and sneezing fit it causes often make people tear up and seek immediate medical attention. 

But after the initial panic subsides, what are the chances of a spray incident turning into a lasting issue? This spray causes some serious effects, but it can't prevent attacks. Here are some of the long-term effects of pepper spray exposure.  

  • Severe Burning

Pepper spray is a good weapon to use against an attacker, but the pain and burning experienced from the spray wears off and this may be a terrible shock to victims.

  • Color Blindness  

Being exposed to pepper spraying causes a temporary form of color blindness called photokeratitis, where people experience severe eye irritation and burning that causes blurry vision that may last for several days.

  • Respiratory Failure  

The strongest side effect of pepper spraying is respiratory failure. As the effects of this spray wear off, people often start coughing and experiencing shortness of breath.

  • Trouble Sleeping  

Nausea and dizziness can also occur after being exposed to pepper spraying. Because sleeping is difficult, many who have been exposed to this spray find it very difficult to get a good night's rest, setting in motion a cycle that keeps the person up at night.

  • Skin Irritation  

Many people who were exposed to the chemical irritant in pepper spray rub their eyes until they bleed, causing skin burns and developing permanent red marks on their skin.

  • Myopia 

Being exposed to this spray can create a new eye condition called myopia, where the person experiences nearsightedness. The natural response is for people to rub their eyes after being exposed to the spray, leading to eye irritation. Eye rubbing may cause eye irritation and lead to vision problems due to myopia-like symptoms.

  • Psychological Disorders  

Many people who are exposed to this spray suffer from psychological disorders like depression that can keep them from living normal lives. Some victims of this spray even commit suicide in despair and mental agony over the experience.

Use Pepper Spray Only for Self-Defense!

Pepper spray is an option that anyone should consider carrying as a personal defense device. It is an effective tool and can be used against armed attackers in an emergency situation. It is important to always consider the potential defense laws in your state before deciding to carry pepper spray or any self-defense tool, however. 

Laws vary from state to state, so it is best to do some research before purchasing this spray or any other weapon or tool for home protection purposes. This spray can come in handy for self-defense, but these are some factors that must be considered prior to purchasing one for use on your body and/or as a car security device.