KODIAK, Alaska (AP) — Kodiak health professionals have reported an increase in the number of children being accidently exposed to bear spray, officials said.
Officials from Providence Kodiak Island Medical Center have recorded four cases of children under the age of 10 being exposed this summer to the pepper spray-like substance used to deter bear threats, the Kodiak Daily Mirror reported .
All of the cases occurred at home or in a car when a bear threat was not present, said Lydia Cullum, an emergency room nurse at the medical center.
"I'm sure there's more cases that do not come in," Cullum said. "Those are just the cases that come into the ER."
Only one case of accidental exposure was reported over the last two years, according to hospital records.
Officials are not sure why there appears to be an uptick in exposure cases this year, said Carlie Franz, a hospital spokeswoman.
"It's really unusual for us to see this many, especially in such a short time period," Franz said.
Bear sprays contain capsaicin, the active component found in chili peppers that cause the burning sensation. In worst cases, the spray can restrict breathing and cause temporary blindness or permanent eye damage.
"It's most scary when it gets in the eyes and the mouth," Cullum said. "It can cause problems with vision, and problems with the airway — that's when it's essential for people to come to the ER right away."
Removing the substance after exposure requires lengthy water rinses and may require oil-cleansing soap, Cullum said.
"We need to make sure that people have good safety measures on their bear spray cans, whether it's a zip tie, or another safety measure," Cullum said.