Persistent Respiratory Symptoms following Prolonged Capsaicin Exposure

S Copeland, K Nugent


Capsaicin causes direct irritation of the eyes, mucous membranes, and respiratory tract. It is used in self-defense, in crowd control, and as a less lethal weapon in police work. Controlled trials suggest that capsaicin has minimal serious acute effects. Herein, we report a woman who had a 20-minute exposure to capsaicin during a jail riot. She subsequently developed episodic dyspnea and cough, and increased sensitivity to scents, perfumes, and cigarette smoke. She has not had wheezes on physical examination or abnormal pulmonary function tests. Her response to inhaled steroids and long-acting beta-agonists has been incomplete. She appears to have developed airway sensory hyperreactivity syndrome after the inhalation of capsaicin, which likely injured sensory nerves and/or caused persistent neurogenic inflammation.


Capsaicin; Toxicity; Dyspnea; Cough; Bronchial hyperreactivity; Neurogenic inflammation

 pISSN: 2008-6520
 eISSN: 2008-6814

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