Stay calm: Panicking can make the irritation worse. Don’t rub your face if you get sprayed because it will spread the compound deeper into your eyes.
Start blinking immediately: this allows tears to flush away some of the oils contained in pepper spray.
Get out of the area: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends leaving the area right away when exposed to tear gas and similar riot control, agents. Get to higher ground, and find fresh air quickly.
Flush with water, lots of it: “Water overall is the best treatment that people can use,” says Robert Glatter, an emergency physician in New York City. He recommends using baby shampoo or diluted dishwashing soap with water to remove oils from the skin.
Though many people pour milk on their faces after being pepper-sprayed during protests, Glatter said that helps reduce the burning sensation but doesn’t remove any of the oil.
The CDC says people should quickly take off any clothing that may have tear gas on it. If clothing, such as a shirt or sweater, needs to be pulled over the head, Glatter said, it must be cut off to limit exposure to the eyes or mouth.
People should place all removed clothes in a plastic bag and wash any tear gas from the skin as quickly as possible with soap and water. They should not use soap for the eyes. For burning eyes or blurred vision, the CDC recommends rinsing eyes with plain water for 10 to 15 minutes.
Glatter said contact lenses should be removed with clean gloves, and glasses should be washed with soap and water. Glasses can be used again, but the CDC advises against reusing the contacts, even if they’re not disposable.
Though there’s no approved antidote for tear gas, Glatter said, there are a few home remedies that could help ease the effects after exposure. He said some people use lemon juice or antacids such as Maalox water.