If you’ve spent any amount of time on YouTube lately, you’re probably aware of how many riotous conflicts there have been of late that ultimately end in brawls and tear gas. A group known as Antifa has been showing up at conservative rallies and events, deliberately causing chaos and conflict.
These brawls in the streets are far from the first incidents of civil unrest as of late. For the last few years, we’ve seen growing numbers of violent protests and full-out riots, in which policemen often resort to the notorious, yet effective, method of crowd control they’ve been using since union riots in the 30’s: tear gas.
It seems to be a growing reality of our current world that more and more riots are taking place in our country’s major urban areas. Whether you are one of the passionate Americans out there on either side of the protest line, or just an innocent bystander, trying to get out of a bad situation, it’s important to know what to do if you happen to come into contact with tear gas.
Tear gas, or chlorobenzylidenemalononitrile (CS gas), is a common method employed by law enforcement officials to control unruly crowds. While not technically a gas, this strong chemical agent can render most of its victims largely incapacitated for a decent amount of time.
When first released, the chemical comes into contact with your eyes and skin. This causes a very intense burning sensation in your eyes, and then causes your eyes to tear up uncontrollably. These two factors will render most temporarily blind.
Next, the chemical affects your lungs, as you breathe it in. It causes severe shortness of breath and uncontrollable coughing. Some people might even vomit.
The effects on the skin and eyes can last for several hours, while the coughing and shortness of breath last for about 1 hour. This is enough to stop any riotous protestor in their tracks.
Protection and Prevention
The smartest way to avoid getting tear gassed would, of course, be to avoid events such as “Antifa crashes free speech rally” in which violence will erupt, and subsequently, tear gas will be employed. It’s always smartest from a survival perspective to lay as low as possible in any incident of potential civil unrest. However, you might not have the choice if you happen to work in or be traveling through an affected area, or perhaps you simply want to practice your constitutional right to protest, which I certainly wouldn’t fault anyone for.
The first thing you need to do, if you have the opportunity, is to protect yourself from tear gas. This is one reason (aside from possible fashion statements) you will see so many protesters wearing gas masks, goggles, or face bandanas. While goggles or face scarves might help a little, a gas mask is your only sure bet to protect your eyes and lungs. Dust masks will also be ineffective, so opt for a well-fitted gas mask. These are great to have for all survival purposes, so they’re worth the investment.
There are many sensible reasons why you wouldn’t want to walk around in your gask mask, of course, so you’ll probably want to just keep it stashed in your bag, and pull it out if you are in a situation where you might get gassed.
What to Do If You Get Gassed
Of course, if you do happen to get tear gassed and don’t have a trusty gas mask with you, there are a few measures you can take to avoid the worst.
First, hold your breath and run away. Fast. You can collapse in a breathless heap later, just do this as fast as you possibly can, holding your breath for as long as you can. This can actually greatly reduce your exposure to the gas.
Seeking out higher ground, if possible, is your best bet too, as you can probably get above the gas cloud.
Whatever degree of exposure you do have, don’t rub your eyes. This will, of course, be the first thing you want to do, but it will for sure make the symptoms worse, and longer-lasting.
Then, flush, flush, flush. Let the tears flow as much as you can (without rubbing!), and blow your nose, spit, cough, expel as much bodily fluid as you can. If you have saline solution, flush your eyes out, and if you wear contacts, get them out as fast as you can. Make sure to drink lots of water during this time as well, to help flush the chemicals out.
If you are able to, take off your clothes, as they will have gotten gassed too and could spread the irritants to others. Then, again, if you’re able, take a shower. First rinse thoroughly with cold water, then warm. This will get the gas off your skin which will reduce the symptoms.
Some methods that are commonly recommended to reduce the effects of tear gas include breathing in a bandana soaked in lemon juice or apple cider vinegar, putting toothpaste under your eyes, and sniffing a cut onion (to encourage tearing of the eyes). These methods have never been shown through research to counteract the effects of tear gas, but many protest veterans swear by them, so they’re worth a shot if you’re killing time waiting for the tear gas to wear off.
Gas mask is a nasty chemical, but it is a humane and civil way for police to control crowds. With these basic tips, if you ever come into contact with it, you have a good chance of minimizing the discomfort. Keep that in mind for your next big protest or rally, but most importantly, be smart out there.
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