How and when to use pepper spray

How and when to use pepper spray

If you have been following the news on social media or on TV, chances are that you know there has been an increase of violent crimes, especially against women in South Africa in the last few months.

There has been an outcry by the entire country to create safe spaces for women and children to walk in freely and to be able to protect themselves against perpetrators. A common solution that has been suggested for women, who feel too scared to walk or travel alone, especially at night, is to carry pepper spray in their bag.

This is by no means the ideal solution, but used correctly, pepper spray can help victims of crime to escape from their perpetrators.

What is pepper spray?

Pepper spray is exactly what sounds like. It is a spray in which the main ingredient is capsaicin, a chemical derived from the fruit of plants in the genus Capsicum, including chilies.

When sprayed into the air, it is breathed in by the intended target and irritates and burns the respiratory system, eyes and any other exposed, sensitive parts of the body.

Pepper spray is used in policing, riot control, crowd control and self-defence, including defence against dogs and bears, explains Wikipedia.


Be careful when activating the spray as it can affect you just as much if the area is not well ventilated. Be careful to hold your breath when ejecting the spray, and if possible, make your way out of the contaminated area as soon as you can. Most pepper sprays can shoot up to 10 feet.

How do I spray most effectively?

The Family Self Defense Academy says to keep your arm slightly bent.

“Unless there is a safe distance between you and the attacker, you should never reach out at an arm’s length when deploying pepper spray. Doing this increases the risk of the attacker knocking the canister out of your hand. Instead keep your arm slightly bent and use your other arm to guard the other.”

Also, be sure to keep track of how many sprays you have left in the canister at all times. This may not always be possible, as in times of crisis, we react instinctively. But keeping track of how much spray you have, ensures that you don’t leave the house with an empty canister.

Be sure to aim for the attacker’s eyes. This is the best way to make sure that your attacker is temporarily blinded, so that you can escape the situation.

Most importantly, keep your spray accessible. When you are about to enter a dangerous area, have it in your hand. Having to dig it out of your bag or from a deep pocket could waste valuable time and could be the difference between life and death.

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