Mace spray is commonly used for personal defense--it's easy to carry, easy to use, and can be quickly disabling but not lethal. While mace spray usually isn't permanently harmful, the temporary effects can be crippling. Once somebody is affected by mace spray, there are lots of ways to ease the pain, most of which can be found in a kitchen (or garden, if a hose is necessary).
Most mace spray on the market today isn't really Mace. The original Mace was a type of tear gas, but it is now illegal to possess this type of Mace in most countries. The common "mace" spray sold today is usually some form of pepper spray, which is legal to carry without a permit in almost all U.S. states. Pepper spray is made from extracts from hot peppers. When it's sprayed, the pepper extract irritates the skin and eyes, resulting in burning pain, temporary blindness and difficulty breathing.
What to do if you get hit with mace spray? The most important thing is to get the pepper extract off your body. Wash yourself with water and a non-oil-based soap or detergent, and rinse out your eyes. If you're wearing contacts, take them out. Don't rub your eyes. Pat yourself dry afterward instead of rubbing with a towel, which can spread the pepper extract further. Keep away from soothing lotions and salves, because the oils can actually keep the pepper extract on your skin longer. Instead, use ice packs or cold water to lessen the pain. Cold milk can also help, just as when you drink a glass of milk after a spicy meal to cool off your mouth.
There are products that are specifically made to counteract the effects of mace spray. Ready-made wet wipes and spray antidotes neutralize mace spray and are also convenient to carry. If you are in a job where you are at risk of being frequently exposed to mace spray--such as a law enforcement officer--these products may be necessary. However, as most people aren't at very high risk of being on the receiving end of mace spray, it's probably not necessary to stock up on such products.
J.D. Wollf has been a writer since 1999 and has been published in a variety of newspapers and newsletters. She has covered everything from local sports to computer accessory reviews and specializes in articles about health issues, particularly in the elderly.