Skip to main content

Radiation sickness

Overview

Radiation sickness is damage to your body caused by a large dose of radiation often received over a short period of time (acute). The amount of radiation absorbed by the body — the absorbed dose — determines how sick you'll be.

Radiation sickness is also called acute radiation syndrome or radiation poisoning. Radiation sickness is not caused by common imaging tests that use low-dose radiation, such as X-rays or CT scans.

Although radiation sickness is serious and often fatal, it's rare. Since the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, during World War II, most cases of radiation sickness have occurred after nuclear industrial accidents, such as the 1986 explosion and fire that damaged the nuclear power plant at Chernobyl, Ukraine.


Symptoms

The severity of signs and symptoms of radiation sickness depends on how much radiation you've absorbed. How much you absorb depends on the strength of the radiated energy, the time of your exposures, and the distance between you and the source of radiation.

Signs and symptoms are also affected by the type of exposure — such as total or partial body. The severity of radiation sickness also depends on how sensitive the affected tissue is. For instance, the gastrointestinal system and bone marrow are highly sensitive to radiation.

Initial signs and symptoms

The initial signs and symptoms of treatable radiation sickness are usually nausea and vomiting. The amount of time between exposure and when these symptoms develop is a clue to how much radiation a person has absorbed.

After the first round of signs and symptoms, a person with radiation sickness may have a brief period with no apparent illness, followed by the onset of new, more-serious symptoms.

If you've had a mild exposure, it may take hours to weeks before any signs and symptoms begin. But with severe exposure, signs and symptoms can begin minutes to days after exposure.

Possible symptoms include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Dizziness and disorientation
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Hair loss
  • Bloody vomit and stools from internal bleeding
  • Infections
  • Low blood pressure

When to see a doctor

An accident or attack that causes radiation sickness would no doubt cause a lot of attention and public concern. If such an event occurs, monitor radio, television or online reports to learn about emergency instructions for your area.

If you know you've been overexposed to radiation, seek emergency medical care.

Causes

Radiation is the energy released from atoms as either a wave or a tiny particle of matter. Radiation sickness is caused by exposure to a high dose of radiation, such as a high dose of radiation received during an industrial accident.

Sources of high-dose radiation

Possible sources of high-dose radiation include the following:

  • An accident at a nuclear industrial facility
  • An attack on a nuclear industrial facility
  • Detonation of a small radioactive device
  • Detonation of a conventional explosive device that disperses radioactive material (dirty bomb)
  • Detonation of a standard nuclear weapon

Radiation sickness occurs when high-energy radiation damages or destroys certain cells in your body. Regions of the body most vulnerable to high-energy radiation are cells in the lining of your intestinal tract, including your stomach, and the blood cell-producing cells of bone marrow.

Complications

Having radiation sickness can contribute to both short-term and long-term mental health problems, such as grief, fear and anxiety about:

  • Experiencing a radioactive accident or attack
  • Mourning friends or family who haven't survived
  • Dealing with the uncertainty of a mysterious and potentially fatal illness
  • Worrying about the eventual risk of cancer due to radiation exposure

Prevention

In the event of a radiation emergency, stay tuned to your radio or television to hear what protective actions local, state and federal authorities recommend. Recommended actions will depend on the situation, but you will be told to either stay in place or evacuate your area.

Shelter in place

If you're advised to stay where you are, whether you're at home or work or elsewhere, do the following:

  • Close and lock all doors and windows.
  • Turn off fans, air conditioners and heating units that bring air in from outside.
  • Close fireplace dampers.
  • Bring pets indoors.
  • Move to an inner room or basement.
  • Stay tuned to your emergency response network or local news.
  • Stay put for at least 24 hours.

Evacuate

If you're advised to evacuate, follow the instructions provided by your local authorities. Try to stay calm and move quickly and in an orderly manner. In addition, travel lightly, but take supplies, including:

  • Flashlight
  • Portable radio
  • Batteries
  • First-aid kit
  • Necessary medicines
  • Sealed food, such as canned foods, and bottled water
  • Manual can opener
  • Cash and credit cards
  • Extra clothes

Be aware that most emergency vehicles and shelters won't accept pets. Take them only if you're driving your own vehicle and going someplace other than a shelter.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Cold Urticaria

Overview Cold allergy or in medical terms called cold urticaria is the reaction of the skin to cold which causes itching to appear and the skin becomes reddish in color. The severity of cold allergy symptoms that appear on each person is different. Some people can lose consciousness, experience very low blood pressure, and even the worst can cause death. Ages are the age most often affected by cold allergies, but usually will disappear completely within a few years. Symptoms Usually cold allergy symptoms appear when the skin is exposed to cold water or cold weather (below 4 degrees Celsius). Cold allergies are also more at risk of appearing in conditions that are windy and damp. The following are some cold allergy symptoms that can occur. Hands feel swollen when holding cold objects. Itchy lesions appear on the area of ​​the skin exposed to cold air. The lips and throat feel swollen when eating cold food or drinks. Reddish skin. Allergic reactions are usually most seve

COVID-19 (coronavirus) Quarantine, Self-Isolation and Social Distancing

COVID-19 (coronavirus) quarantine, self-isolation and social distancing Learn the difference between quarantine and self-isolation amid the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic — and why it matters. You've read about people self-quarantining, social distancing, or isolating themselves during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. You may be confused about the various terms and wonder what you should be doing. These terms describe approaches for limiting the spread of disease during epidemics and pandemics:   Social distancing.  Keeping space between yourself and other people outside your household to prevent the spread of disease. Quarantine.  Separating people and limiting movement of people who have or may have been exposed to the disease to see if they become ill. Isolation.  Separating people who are ill from others to keep the disease from spreading. Social distancing   You're likely practicing social distancing if there's ongoing community spre

Ways to fight coronavirus transmission at home

Ways to fight coronavirus transmission at home Used properly, most common household disinfectants will kill the virus that causes COVID-19. Doctors and researchers are gaining a greater understanding about the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak and how the virus can spread. Public health messages emphasize the importance of frequent, thorough hand-washing and social distancing to slow the spread of  COVID-19 .   You can also take steps in your home to keep the virus from spreading. No special supplies are required. You likely already have what you need. How is COVID-19 spread?   The virus that causes  COVID-19  can be spread by contact with someone who has  COVID-19 , as well as contact with surfaces or objects that person has touched. When someone with  COVID-19  sneezes or coughs, respiratory droplets are released into the air. Droplets typically don't travel far — no more than 6 feet (about 2 meters). The virus may stay on surfaces from hours to days.