Eye Health

Updated 10 February 2017

SEE: What happens if you inhale tear gas?

Tear gas causes severe eye, respiratory and skin irritation.


Just how dangerous is tear gas? What happens if you inhale teargas?

What is tear gas?

Tear gas, formally known as lachrymator, is a chemical substance that causes severe eye, respiratory and skin irritation. 

Different types of tear gas with different compounds have their own toxicological effects and levels.

Health24 previously reported that it also causes burning in the nose, mouth and throat, which leads to coughing, nasal discharge, disorientation, and problems breathing.

The effects differ mostly in high dosage, but in lower concentrations they are similar.

Ways to avoid/lessen the pain of inhaling tear gas:

  • If you think that tear gas might be released in area that you are in, take a bandanna or any other piece of material soaked in cider vinegar or lemon juice with you to cover your mouth if necessary.
  • Rinse your eyes and mouth with milk or cold water.
  • Take a cold shower (a hot shower will open your pores and help to absorb the chemical compound, worsening the affects.)
  • Some people who experience shortness of breath display panic attack symptoms as a result. In such cases the person should be rushed to a hospital.


Ask the Expert


Megan Goodman qualified as an optometrist from the University of Johannesburg. She has recently completed a Masters degree in Clinical Epidemiology at Stellenbosch University. She has a keen interest in ocular pathology and evidence based medicine as well as contact lenses.

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