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Acid Reflux causes and Treatment

How Does Pepper Spray Work?

How Does Pepper Spray Work?


Let’s say you’re going for a hike and
out of nowhere an attacker appears. You don’t know krav maga and you’re not
a bear so how are you going to protect yourself if things get ugly? Chemistry–in the form of pepper spray. Pepper spray is no joke. This stuff is designed to hurt and it’s
so effective that a single blast can reportedly debilitate a person for upwards of an hour. Let’s take a look at what’s going on in
this weaponized hot sauce that gives it its sting. The active ingredient in pepper spray is capsaicin,
which comes from peppers. But how is pepper spray THAT intense? I can jam a jalapeno in an attacker’s eye
all I want but it’s not going to do a whole lot. To go from this to this, chemists finely grind
up a whole bunch of peppers from the Capsicum family, then use ethanol to extract the capsaicin. Next most of the ethanol is evaporated off,
leaving behind a sticky oily residue, more formally known as oleoresin capsicum. This residue is mixed with propylene glycol
and water. The propylene glycol causes the capsaicin
to form little droplets that mix throughout the water, making a capsaicin/water emulsion. Think of it as an oil and vinegar salad dressing
— except with smaller droplets designed to inflict pain. It’s is then packaged into a spray can with
a propellant and boom–pepper spray. We have an video on how capsaicin works and
why it triggers that burning sensation. Check it out here. Pepper spray is especially painful when it
comes into contact with mucus membranes in our eyes, nose, and mouth. And just like with many other things, it’s
the dose that makes the poison: the more capsaicin you get in your exposed to, the more you’ll
feel the burn, and pepper spray can have 10 times the capsaicin concentration as a habanero
seed… or more. Ouch. Once someone is pepper sprayed, the capsaicin
immediately triggers distress signals to the brain essentially saying “Help!” Your body forces your eyes shut, produces
streams of tears, and buckets of mucus. All to try and protect against more injury
and flush the capsaicin away. At the same time the capsaicin inflames the
skin around your eyes. It also stimulates nerve endings in the throat
and spasms of the larynx, making it hard to talk. The pain has been described as feeling like
“thousands of pieces of glass shooting into your eyes.” Sounds fun. So now let’s say you accidentally got pepper
spray on yourself. Here’s what you need to know. First, do not touch your face. You’re just going to spread the capsaicin
around and make the pain worse. To get this stuff off you’re going to need
something that’s nonpolar, since capsaicin is nonpolar. You’re thinking milk’s the answer, aren’t
you? It’s not. While milk does contain nonpolar fats that
can dull the burn, dumping it in your eyes isn’t the best idea since it’s not sterile. What you really need is one of these. The solutions are sterile, and they contain
a salt like magnesium hydroxide, which cause the capsaicin molecules to be released from
their emulsified prison and makes them easier to rinse off. Just make sure not to grab a mint flavored
antacid–menthol can make the pain worse. Yup science shows mint-sprinkled hot wings
might be fusion food too far. Ideally you’d then flush your eyes out for
at least 15 minutes at a wash station, but chances are if you’ve been pepper sprayed,
you’re not gonna have one of these right next to you. So just use as much water after the antacid
as you can. Now that you’ve flushed out your eyes be
sure to *thoroughly* wash your hands with a mild soap like liquid dish detergent. After all that you don’t want to accidently
re-contaminate your eyes with any residual capsaicin from the pepper spray. But we hate to break it to you – one study
suggests that depending on your own physiology, the best way to get rid of the pain is … just
to wait it out. Once the pain subsides and you can see again,
consider seeing your way to a doctor, just to make sure everything’s OK. Well we hope you never have to use it, but
when worse comes to worst the chemistry packed into that little canister can give you enough
time to get out of a dangerous situation… and live to learn about chemistry another
day. Be sure to check out our video on how capsaicin
works and make sure to hit that thumbs up on your way out. We’ll see ya next week.

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