I have recently had a lot of experience with tear gas as part of my national service. Let me tell you, military-issue tear gas is nothing like the cheap shit you can buy in a spray can to help you fight off potential rapists or robbers. What the military (and some police) use is quite different, mainly in that it is many hundreds of times stronger. However, it is still considered too weak a gas to use in actual combat; the military use tear gas mainly for practice and crowd control purposes.

Tear gas is quite a horrible substance. Not only is it long-lived (an exposed garment will need thorough cleaning before it can be used again), it's also very capable of remaining airborne for quite a bit of time after being released. One example: As part of an exercise, a 5 centimeter tear gas flare was set off in a forest clearing. 10 minutes later, a small group of soldiers arrived at a location roughly 100 metres away. Every time there was a gust of wind, some gas would blow over the spot where the soldiers were sitting. While the gas was thinned out enough to be invisible to the naked eye at this point, the dose was enough to cause quite a bit of discomfort for the soldiers. I should know, I was one of them.

The immediate effects of tear gas are the following:
  • Extreme irritation of the eyes
  • Itching sensation in mouth and nostrils
  • Burning sensation in lungs, skin
  • Breathing becomes harder
How much your skin burns actually depends on how sweaty you are. Tear gas attacks anything that's wet - The neck, forehead, throat and behind the ears are places that are likely to hurt a lot, since they're often exposed and will be sweaty, especially if you're wearing a mask or hood.

As for the good news, tear gas is not lethal unless you've got some sort of wierd allergy against it, or is exposed to it for a very long time. In the latter case, any parts of you affected by the gas (for example the lungs) will begin to take damage after a while. A rule of thumb for shorter exposures is that all of the effects are temporary - after just a short period of being in fresh air again, you should feel just fine. If not, contacting a doctor might be in order. Also, like I mentioned above, make sure that any clothes are properly and thoroughly cleaned before you use them again.