When the question is asked, How hot is pepper spray?, the point of the question really concerns what does pepper spray do to the body. Are all tissues affected in the same way and the same proportion? The sensitive tissues such as the eyes, lining of the mouth, nose, sinuses and breathing airways are the tissues that are highly affected.
Physiological effects include burning sensations and swelling of exposed mucous membranes. The sensations can be debilitating for the person exposed to a point where the person lays on the ground struggling for breath and unable to accomplish much while waiting for the effects to wear off. The use of pepper spray for self defense relies on the swelling and pain in these tissues to be effective as a strategy against attack.
The capsaicin molecule goes straight to the nerve endings of these tissues very quickly. Pepper spray exposed to the more extensive skin covering of the body will cause mild to moderate, non-debilitating burning sensations akin to applying deep heating rubs. The successful use of a defensive spray relies on exposure to the more sensitive tissues.
Buccal mucosa Mucous membranes of the mouth
Esophageal mucosa Between throat and stomach
Nasal mucosa Mucous membranes of the nose
Olfactory mucosa Mucous membranes of the nose
Oral mucosa – Mouth
Bronchial mucosa – Airways
The nerve endings of these tissues are extremely easy for chemical compounds to reach.
Noxious stimuli such as heat or chemicals is picked up by pain nerves referred to as nociceptors.
The spray is a chemical which immediately affects the body in a severe manner. If you are ever shot with pepper spray, there are a few tips you should know about first-aid response to it.
First of all, there is no way to neutralize the effects of defense spray, although they can be lessened. Capsaicin, the active ingredient in the spray, is not soluble in water so no matter how much you douse yourself in it, nothing will change. You should blink vigorously to encourage tears, which will help flush it from your eyes and wash it from your face with soap, shampoo, dish washing detergent, or other detergents. Milk will also provide some relief from the burning sensation, as will ice, cold water, a cold surface, or a fan.
A person hit with pepper spray in the face will typically close their eyes involuntarily. Application of water and antacids such as Maalox have been found to have little effect on reducing eye pain from pepper spray. Forcing oneself to blink is recommended as secretions from tear glads provide the most, albeit slow relief. Rapid blinking will not provide quick or instant relief.