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Identifying Chemical Attacks through Symptoms

This article provides an updated guide on identifying chemical attacks based on the symptoms exhibited. Originally published in 2017, we have revisited and expanded on the information to offer more examples for quick detection.

Nerve Agents

Nerve agents, the most prevalent in remaining stockpiles worldwide, are among the deadliest chemical weapons. Highly effective when weaponized, they have a broad reach, especially when deployed in cluster bombs. Terror groups have used nerve agents, as seen in the Tokyo subway sarin attack. These agents can be absorbed through the skin, leading to rapid symptom onset based on exposure levels.

Initial exposure symptoms: tightness of chest, runny nose, constricted pupils

Mild exposure symptoms: drooling, nausea, difficulty breathing

Severe exposure symptoms: vomiting, burning eyes and lungs, involuntary urination and defecation

Fatal exposure symptoms: convulsions, asphyxiation

The primary identifying symptom for nerve agent exposure is constricted pupils.

Blister Agents

Blister agents, often loaded into mortars due to their limited effective radius compared to nerve agents, cause prolonged pain and can be fatal. Symptoms of exposure to certain blister agents may not appear until 2-4 hours later.

Mild exposure symptoms: skin, eye, and mucous membrane irritation, respiratory distress

Severe exposure symptoms: large fluid-filled blisters, corneal damage, severe respiratory distress

The key identifying symptom for blister agents is the presence of large fluid-filled blisters.

Blood Agents

Blood agents, cyanide or arsenic-based, are effective when inhaled or ingested. They are more potent in enclosed spaces as they disperse rapidly. Named blood agents due to their ability to halt oxygen utilization in cells, these agents cause victims' blood to appear bright red.

Mild exposure symptoms: dizziness, weakness, nausea, headache, pink skin, smell of almonds or garlic

Severe exposure symptoms: gasping

Fatal exposure symptoms: convulsions, asphyxiation

The primary identifying symptom for blood agents is the distinct smell of almonds or garlic.

Choking Agents

Choking agents induce fluid accumulation in the victim's lungs, leading to suffocation. Phosgene and Chlorine gas are well-known choking agents.

Mild exposure symptoms: blurred vision, vomiting, headache, burning throat

Severe exposure symptoms: deep burns on skin and eyes, tightness in the chest

Fatal exposure symptoms: respiratory failure, circulatory failure

The primary identifying symptom for choking agents is the presence of bloody phlegm during coughing.

Riot Control Agents

Riot control agents, commonly encountered chemical agents, are non-lethal and widely used by law enforcement. Pepper spray and tear gas fall under this category, with pepper spray even available for personal use. Pepper spray can be launched over long distances using modified paintball guns, offering a relatively inexpensive personal protection option.

Mild exposure symptoms: burning sensation, forceful closure of eyes, coughing, nasal discharge

Severe exposure symptoms: severe coughing, vomiting, skin burns

The main identifying symptom for riot control agents is the forceful closure of eyes.

While inhalation is the most common route of destruction for these agents, skin contact can also be hazardous. Protective masks are essential for minimizing exposure, although clothing can also provide some protection, albeit at the risk of contamination upon exposure. For more insights on the likelihood of a chemical attack, refer to our Prepper Threat List section.

Discover other informative articles:

  • The Ultimate Gas Mask User Guide for Preppers
  • The Best Hazmat Suit for CBRN Protection
  • Emergency Specialized Kits Guide, Gear, and Checklist

Continue your exploration, stay prepared, and prioritize safety.


By: Rusty Collins
Title: Identifying Chemical Attacks through Symptoms
Sourced From:
Published Date: Thu, 22 Feb 2024 20:32:45 +0000

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