Can Pepper Spray Make You Blind?

Pepper spray is legal in all 50 states. However, being on the receiving end of pepper spray is never going to be recommended. This is because of the considerable evidence of its effects on the receiver. Pepper spray is a self-defense weapon used to deter an attacker. It’s also used to stop aggressive animals as well as control crowds and apprehend offenders.

There are several controversies surrounding the effects that pepper spray has. This tool is a deterrent. This means that once sprayed, there is an immediate effect on the eyes, nose, skin, and throat. One of the most commonly asked questions is, can pepper spray cause blindness? There are several factors to consider when answering this question. Read on to find out the effect of pepper spray on the eyes.

Pepper Spray and its Effects

Pepper spray, also known as OC spray, is a lacrimator. This means that it stimulates the eyes to produce tears. This product comes in a spray bottle or an aerosol. The main component found in pepper spray is Oleoresin Capsicum. This is the same component found in chili peppers and is responsible for the pungent smell and effect of pepper.

Pepper spray contains higher concentrations of Capsaicin than chili peppers. This means it’s significantly hotter than most peppers. The strength of pepper spray is measured in Scoville Heat Units (SHU). Pepper spray can range anywhere between 500,000 and 2 million SHU.

There are several physical effects associated with pepper spray. These include temporary paralysis, dry cough, shortness of breath, burning of the skin, chest pain, dizziness, and most significantly temporary blindness and pain.

Once pepper spray comes in contact with a person’s eyes, it causes eye pain, burning, immediate closure, and eventually temporary blindness. While painful, these effects usually resolve after about 30 to 45 minutes. This duration typically depends on the intensity of the spray as well as its concentration. Pepper spray does not cause permanent blindness. A person recovers their eyesight once the effects wear off. However, multiple exposures to pepper spray can lead to more severe effects.

How to Get Pepper Spray Out of Eyes

Pepper spray has an immediate effect on the eyes. Immediately it’s sprayed, you’ll feel the urge to wash it off to ease the irritation and burning. It’s important to note that doing this needs precision. Otherwise, you may be causing even more damage to your eye. Some people report scratching of the eyeball or cornea. This is mainly because of rubbing your eyes after the effect. Here are some ways suitable for removing pepper spray from your eyes;

Method 1

React Quickly

Pepper spray is oil-based hence causes severe irritation and burning. Do not touch your eyes while they are in this state. This is because you risk the possibility of spreading the substance even further into your eyes. Try increasing your blinking rate. This will help you produce tears which are a liquid and will begin to flush out the substance.

If you were wearing contact lenses when pepper sprayed, take them out immediately. Lenses provide a surface for the pepper spray residue to stick causing even further damage and irritation to your eyes. Use clean hands to remove the lenses and throw them away immediately.

Once you’ve removed them, submerge your face in clean, cool water. Ensure that you are continuously opening and closing your eyes underwater. This allows the water to penetrate and flush out any of the pepper spray residue as well as reduce the burning.

The symptoms of pepper spray last a while. Therefore, do not expect the irritation to go away immediately you flush out your eyes. Be patient with the process. However, if these symptoms last for longer than expected, you should seek medical assistance.

Method 2

Use Water

Pepper spray is an oily substance that lingers on your skin and eyes. You must ensure that you clean it off as quickly as possible. The most obvious way of doing this is by using water. Continuously flush your face and eyes with clean, cool water for about fifteen minutes.

After flushing, ensure you are in an area with a consistent flow of air. Expose all affected areas to the air to help evaporation of the remaining residue. The most advisable sources of water are a sink, fountain, or the shower. If you can’t access this you can use any clean water you can get a hold of.

It’s also advisable to incorporate soap. A solution of one quarter mild detergent and three quarters cool water is recommended. Dip your face into this solution with your eyes shut for about 20 seconds. Ensure you don’t open your eyes as this will further irritate your eyes. Refresh the water after every rinse to avoid exposing yourself to more pepper spray with every rinse.

Method 3

Use Milk

Milk works as a way of relieving the burning sensation caused by pepper spray. You cannot use milk to clean the oil residue of the substance. You should be careful when using milk to flush pepper spray as experts warn that it may not be sterile.

You can use milk by splashing it all over your face. You can also use a spray bottle. Ensure that the bottle is clean and then carefully spray it all over your face with your eyes closed. By doing this, you ease the burning sensation of your skin and make flushing your eyes easier.

You can also dip a clean towel in milk, sit back, and lay the towel on your face. This does not remove the pepper spray from your eyes but it allows you to relieve the burning sensation on the affected areas. After using milk, you can then rinse with cool, clean water and begin the process of removing the pepper spray oil residue from your eyes. It’s important to note that research has found little difference between the pain relief of water and that of milk.


Pepper spray is a self defense tool that has several physical effects and especially on the eyes. This substance causes significant pain, discomfort, and temporary blindness to the receiver. However, it rarely results in blindness. The effects are temporary and wear off after a while depending on the intensity of the spray. There are several ways you can use to remove the oil residue in your eyes. Water and milk are the most common of these. You must put in mind that these methods only remove the substance, not fasten the process of wearing off. In case the effects linger for longer than expected, it’s advisable to seek medical advice.


Written by: Georgina Njoki
Freelance Copywriter and Travel Enthusiast.





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