“Asking to be considered a refugee & applying for status isn’t a crime,” tweeted Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. “Seeking asylum is LEGAL,” added Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash. Others, like Fox News host Tomi Lahren, applauded the move of using tear gas on families. “Watching the USA FINALLY defend our borders was the HIGHLIGHT of my Thanksgiving weekend,” Lahren tweeted.
But along with the questions about what this means for the country is another more immediate one: What does this mean for the kids exposed? “The little girl pictured is not only unarmed, she’s unshoed,” tweeted Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif. “These children are barefoot. In diapers. Choking on tear gas,” tweeted Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom, D-Calif.
Although the main picture appears to show a mother and her two children escaping tear gas, others were reportedly not so lucky. “Rosa was tear gased with her 4 children yesterday,” tweeted reporter Paola Mendoza, alongside a picture of a mother who appears to be struggling to open her eyes.
Rosa was tear gased with her 4 children yesterday.
Even after the tear gas she says she will continue to peruse her asylum. This is her right. No matter how Trump decides to change the rules, never forget that asylum is an international right that belongs to everyone. pic.twitter.com/MTLvFPdoSZ
— Paola Mendoza (@paolamendoza) November 26, 2018
As a result of past protests like that in Ferguson, Mo. — where tear gas was used routinely — the effect on adults is fairly well documented. But the impact of tear gas on children is less covered in the media. So how does tear gas affect the youngest among us, and are there long-term risks? Nina Shapiro, MD, director of Pediatric Ear, Nose and Throat at the UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital and a professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine, tells Yahoo Lifestyle that the situation is serious.
“Tear gas is technically known as a ‘lachrymator’ [lachrymal glands are the tear glands], as the substances cause the eyes to tear,” Shapiro explains, citing several different chemicals that may be used. “The substances attack certain protein channels and enzymes in the eyes, mucous membranes, and skin, causing the acute reaction.”
In adults, these chemicals cause severe burning of the eyes, nose, throat and face. But in children, this reaction can be even more painful. “Children will have more significant reactions, especially if they have a history of asthma, colds or allergies,” says Shapiro. “Any baseline inflammation will lead to more significant reactions to these agents.”
While there are no immediate treatments that can help with the symptoms, Shapiro says the best practice is to quickly remove any clothes that have been exposed and wash them with soap. Oral antihistamines, such as Benadryl, can also help “reduce tearing and skin itching,” she says, but rinsing eyes with water is not necessarily helpful. “That may make symptoms worse,” Shapiro says.
Although studies on the long-term effects of tear gas on adults aren’t conclusive, Shapiro says that there is a great potential for children to face chronic issues after exposure.
“As with any airborne irritant, children are much more susceptible to acute and chronic injury. Their mucosa and skin and eyes are much more sensitive than those of adults, and these children are being exposed to the same dose of these toxic substances as are adults,” Shapiro tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Not only will they suffer more acute injury, [but] long-term damage to their skin, eyes and airways is [also] much more likely.”
She adds, “Long-term effects may include permanent skin burns, chronic breathing issues due to inflammatory response in the airways, corneal injury. It is absolutely horrific.”
Border Patrol fired off shots at a group trying to go through the fence. We ran and hid under train. They sent in CS gas. Babies are scared and crying. pic.twitter.com/FCM1DcG2o8
— WendyFry (@WendyFry_) November 25, 2018
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