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Personal Defense Sprays: Effects and Management of Exposure

Author: Lee RJ, Yolton RL, Yolton DP, Schnider C, Janin ML, U.S. Army, Medical Service Corps, USA

Publication: J Am Optom Assoc 1996 Sep;67(9):548-60

BACKGROUND: Most personal defense sprays contain o-chlorobenzylidene malononitrile (CS), w-chloroacetophenone (CN), oleresin capsicum (OC), or a combination of these ingredients as the active agent. They are designed to incapacitate by causing acute ocular irritation, lacrimation, conjunctivitis, blepharospasm, and mild to moderate respiratory distress.

METHODS: To assess the ocular effects of sprays containing OC as the active agent. Snellen visual acuities and anterior segment appearances of 22 police officers were determined before and after spray exposure. To asses the effects of OC spray contamination on soft contact lenses, four brands of lenses were sprayed and cleaned twice with an alcohol-based cleaner. Gas chromatography was used to search for residual OC in the lenses.

RESULTS: All officers experienced intense blepharospasm, lacrimation, conjunctivitis, and the incapacitation as the result of spray exposure. Acute effects lasted about 5 to 10 min, with relatively complete recovery occurring in about 30 to 60 min. All had significant conjunctivitis, and some had water-drop-shaped corneal defects that stained with fluorescein. These defects resolved within 24 hours without treatment. OC residue was found to be present in the soft lenses that had been sprayed and cleaned twice.

CONCLUSIONS: Optometrists can manage uncomplicated spray exposure patients by directing at-home irrigation with water, and following up with an in-office examination. Soft lenses contaminated by OC spray should be discarded.

The Morgan Lens has proven to be an indispensable aid in my thirteen years of emergency practice.  During that time, my work has taken me to eight or ten different hospitals and medical centers, and I'm always happy to say each and every one of them has kept the Morgan Lens in stock and at the ready.  And, each time a patient is suddenly presented with a chemical or other toxic eye exposure, it is immediately apparent that there is simply no substitute for this product.  In these situations, I have come to depend on it.  I think this testimonial simply reflects what every other emergency physician knows about your landmark device.


...could not effectively irrigate his eyes with IV tubing...

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