Both tear gas and pepper spray are skin irritants, causing burning pain and excess drainage from eyes, nose, mouth and breathing passages. Pepper spray is more popular with authorities as an agent of control because of its immediate pain-causing qualities. It is harder to remove from the skin and has the capacity to cause first degree burns.
If you are exposed to either tear gas or pepper spray, you may experience:
stinging, burning in your eyes, nose, mouth and skin
excessive tearing, causing your vision to blur
coughing and difficulty breathing
disorientation, confusion and sometimes panic
Some people report feeling intense anger. This can be useful if you are prepared and able to focus it towards recovery and returning to the action.
The good news is that the effects are temporary. Discomfort from tear gas usually disappears after 5-30 minutes, while the worst pepper spray discomfort may take 20 minutes to 2 hours to subside. The effects of both diminish sooner with treatment. Because pepper spray penetrates to the nerve endings, its effects may last for hours after removal from the skin.