Breastfeeding after Exposure to Tear Gas

What is tear gas?

Tear gas is a riot control agent that is used to disperse crowds and control riots, and sometimes as personal protection (for example, pepper spray). Several different chemical compounds can be used in  tear gas. These chemicals cause temporary irritation to the eyes, mouth, throat, lungs, and skin. These effects usually last 15–30 minutes after the person has left the area of exposure and cleaned off.

Is it safe for a mother to continue breastfeeding if she has been exposed to tear gas?

After being exposed to tear gas, it is important to protect your own health as well as to avoid exposing infants and young children to the chemicals.  If you are exposed to tear gas, (1) quickly remove your clothing and place them into a plastic bag that can be sealed, (2) wash your body thoroughly with lots of soap and water (rinse your eyes with just water and dispose of contact lenses), (3) dispose of your clothing, and (4) seek medical care as quickly as possible. For more information about how to thoroughly clean your body and dispose of clothing after a chemical release exposure, see “Chemical Agents: Facts About Personal Cleaning and Disposal of Contaminated Clothing.”

It is not known if agents used in tear gas can be found in breast milk. Mothers exposed to riot control agents are advised to thoroughly decontaminate (remove clothes and wash their bodies well) before breastfeeding or expressing milk/pumping. “Pumping and dumping” breast milk is currently not thought to be necessary after exposure to riot control agents.


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