Radiation sickness

Alternative Names : Radiation poisoning; radiation injury

Natural background radiation, known as non-ionizing radiation, such as light, natural radio waves and microwaves generally causes only low levels of damage which can be repaired by the body. However, when the body is exposed to unnaturally high levels of radiation, usually from medical testing and therapy, industrial and manufacturing processes or accidents, and from nuclear weaponry, it cannot combat the damage caused.

There is great individual variation in how people respond to radiation and the process is not fully understood.Among the cells that are most sensitive to radiation are those that have a high turnover such as cells which line the intestine (crypt cells), white blood cells that fight infection and the cells that make red and white blood cells. The acute impact on these cells leads to the classic early symptoms of radiation sickness. For instance, damage to the intestine cells stimulates nausea, vomiting and dehydration. Chronic radiation exposure leads to an increased risk of cancer and premature ageing.

Radiation penetrates the body and is wholly or partially absorbed by soft and hard tissue.

Radioactive fallout in the form of particulate matter can be swallowed or breathed in.

There are many symptoms of radiation sickness, and their severity varies greatly depending on the dosage .

The initial symptoms include:


These symptoms may be followed by:

•Bleeding from the nose, mouth, gums, and rectum
•Bloody stool
•Hair loss
•Inflammation of exposed areas (redness, tenderness, swelling, bleeding)
•Mouth ulcers
•Nausea and vomiting
•Open sores on the skin
•Skin burns (redness, blistering)
•Sloughing of skin
•Ulcers in the esophagus, stomach or intestines
•Vomiting blood

Your doctor will advise you how best to treat these symptoms. Medications may be prescribed to help reduce nausea, vomiting, and pain. Blood transfusions may be given for anemia. Antibiotics are used to prevent or fight infections.

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. Common exposures to low-dose radiation, such as X-ray examinations, do not cause radiation sickness.

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.

Radiation-related illnesses tend to show themselves about 10 to 15 years after a radiation disaster. The body’s endocrine, or hormone-secreting, glands appear to be particularly sensitive to radiation.

It is now widely accepted that the Chernobyl nuclear disaster has led to a massive increase in thyroid cancers in the three countries most affected. Already, 680 cases of thyroid cancer have been recorded in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. Belarus has shown a 100-fold increase, from 0.3 per million in 1981-85 to 30.6 per million in 1991-94.

You may click to see :1 Million Killed in Chernobyl Disaster

Unicef has noted significant increases in many types of health disorders in Belarus since the disaster. For example, problems of the nervous and sensory organs have increased by 43%; disorders of the digestive organs by 28%; and disorders

When a person has experienced known or probable exposure to a high dose of radiation from an accident or attack, medical personnel take a number of steps to determine the absorbed radiation dose. This information is essential for determining how severe the illness is likely to be, which treatments to use and whether a person is likely to survive.

Information important for determining an absorbed dose includes:

*Known exposure. Details about distance from the source of radiation and duration of exposure can help provide a rough estimate of the severity of radiation sickness.

*Vomiting and other symptoms. The time between radiation exposure and the onset of vomiting is a fairly accurate screening tool to estimate absorbed radiation dose. The shorter the time before the onset of this sign, the higher the dose is. The severity and timing of other signs and symptoms may also help medical personnel determine the absorbed dose.

*Blood tests. Frequent blood tests over several days enable medical personnel to look for drops in disease-fighting white blood cells and abnormal changes in the DNA of blood cells. These factors indicate the degree of bone marrow damage, which is determined by the level of an absorbed dose.

*Dosimeter. A device called a dosimeter can measure the absorbed dose of radiation but only if it was exposed to the same radiation event as the affected person.Survey meter. A device such as a Geiger counter can be used to survey people to determine the body location of radioactive particles.

*Type of radiation. A part of the larger emergency response to a radioactive accident or attack would include identifying the type of radiation people have been exposed to. This information would guide some decisions for treating people with radiation sickness.

There is no specific treatment once exposure has occurred but management is generally supportive whilst the body recovers from the damage done – anti-nausea drugs and painkillers can be used to relieve symptoms of radiation sickness. Antibiotics may also be needed to fight off secondary infection.

Blood transfusions may be necessary for patients suffering from anaemia

First Aid:
1.Check the person’s breathing and pulse.
2.Start CPR, if necessary.
3.Remove the person’s clothing and place the items in a sealed container. This stops ongoing contamination.
4.Vigorously wash body with soap and water.
5.Dry the body and wrap with soft, clean blanket.
6.Call for emergency medical help or take the person to nearest emergency medical facility if you can do so safely

If symptoms occur during or after medical radiation treatments:

1.Tell the health care provider or seek medical treatment.
2.Handle affected areas gently.
3.Treat symptoms or illnesses as recommended by the doctor.

•DO NOT remain in area where exposure occurred.
•DO NOT apply ointments to burned areas.
•DO NOT remain in contaminated clothing.
•DO NOT hesitate to seek emergency medical treatment.

•Avoid unnecessary exposure to radiation.
•Persons working in radiation hazard areas should wear badges to measure their exposure levels.
•Protective shields should always be placed over the parts of the body not being treated or studied during x-ray imaging tests or radiation therapy.

Disclaimer: This information is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advise or help. It is always best to consult with a Physician about serious health concerns. This information is in no way intended to diagnose or prescribe remedies.This is purely for educational purpose.



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