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Why does pepper spray stop an attacker? When pepper spray is sprayed into someone's eyes and face, it irritates the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes of the upper respiratory tract (throat). Coughing and choking may be experienced. It is very uncomfortable and there is some pain associated with it. The end result is temporary incapacitation, mostly due to not being able to see. It has people too preoccupied with the blinding and painful experience to even attempt to do anything violent to you.