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Treating Common Protest Injuries — A Guide for the Cause

Authors: Nahal Nikroo, MD; Ryan DesCamp, MD MPH; Manpreet Singh, MD MBE; Harpreet Singh, BSc 

**The information below is general advice only. If you are experiencing a life-threatening emergency, call  9-1-1 or seek immediate medical care.   

Tear Gas + Pepper Spray

  • DO NOT rub your eyes
  • Immediately remove any contact lens
  • Blink quickly in an attempt to rinse some of the material out with your tears
  • Gently rinse eyes with baby shampoo and copious amounts of water
    • Neither water alone nor milk is sufficient for decontamination
  • If you are unable to successfully rinse your eyes, experience persistent burning, or experience persistent visual changes, seek immediate medical attention.

Smoke Inhalation

  • Place clean cloth over your mouth and nose and move toward fresh air, preferably upwind from the source of the smoke
  • If you have any shortness of breath or experience difficulty breathing once you are in fresh air, seek immediate medical attention.

Rubber Bullet Injuries/Bruises

Most rubber bullet injuries can leave a bruise but rarely break the skin.

  • Place ice pack over the area and keep it protected from further injury
  • Carefully evaluate for blunt abdominal injury which may require medical attention
  • Seek immediate medical attention if you are hit in the eyes or neck

Rubber Bullet Injuries/Bruises

  • Immediately rinse the area with copious amounts of clean water
  • Cover the area with a dry bandage, gauze pad, or a clean piece of cloth and apply direct pressure to stop any bleeding.
  • If the cut is caused by any sharp object and appears deep, you will need a tetanus booster within 48 hours unless you’ve received one in the last 10 years.
  • All injuries caused by animal or human bites need immediate medical attention for possible antibiotic therapy
  • If you feel that there may be a retained object in the wound (metal, glass, etc.) or you are unable to control the bleeding, seek immediate medical attention.

Note on COVID-19 Precautions

  • Due to the ongoing SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, it is strongly recommended that when in close proximity to others, appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) be used, such as cloth face masks, and frequent hand washing or use of hand sanitizer.

Mental Health Resources

Traumas can be physical, psychological, or both. If you or someone you know is struggling emotionally, know that you are not alone and resources exist that can help.

Sample First Aid Kit:

  1. Clean cloth or face mask
  2. Hand sanitizer
  3. Gloves
  4. Unopened bottles of water
  5. Bottle of water mixed with small amount of baby shampoo
  6. Bandages of various sizes
  7. Gauze
  8. Tape
  9. Instant cold packs
  10. Contact lens solution
  11. Personal medications, such as albuterol inhaler or EpiPen




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