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All About Radiation Sickness: Its Types, Symptoms and Treatment

19 November, 2020 Arindam Chakraborty

This blog features meaning of Radiation Sickness also popular as Radiation Poisoning, its symptoms, and treatment.

The world is becoming chaotic by the minute and as more countries are flexing their nuclear might, the threat of a nuclear catastrophe is looming over the world.

Now I become death, the destroyer of worlds" were the lines taken from the Bhagavad Gita by Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer after the first atomic bomb was successfully detonated as part of the Trinity test. The nuclear detonation test was conducted in New Mexico on July 16, 1945.

The United States dropped two nuclear weapons over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945, killing millions of people in a blink of an eye.

People who were present at the point of the explosion were vaporized instantly; however, a much worse fate was in-store for those who survived the initial blasts. Millions were affected by nuclear fallout and started falling sick with radiation sickness.

Although the world has been fortunate enough to not witness another nuclear bombing, there have been major nuclear accidents in history that were no less tragic than the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. Nuclear disasters in Chernobyl, Ukraine and Fukushima, Japan are notable instances.

What is Radiation Sickness?

Radiation sickness is a medical condition in which the body develops various secondary conditions due to long-term exposure to low-intensity radiation or short-term exposure to high-intensity radiation.

Radiation sickness is also known as acute radiation syndrome (ARS) or radiation poisoning. The severity of radiation sickness can be determined by identifying the type of radiation and duration of exposure to that radiation type.

What are the Symptoms of Radiation Sickness?

Common symptoms of radiation sickness may include:

1. Nausea
2. Vomiting
3. Diarrhea
4. Headache
5. Fever
6. Disorientation
7. Convulsions
8. Infections
9. Low pressure

What are the Causes of Exposure to High Levels of Radiation?

Everyone is exposed to radiation when they walk out of their homes in the sunlight; however, the ozone layer above the Earth's atmosphere filters the harmful rays irradiated by the Sun.

In most cases, people get exposed to large doses of radiation due to nuclear fallout caused by the detonation of a nuclear device or an accident in a nuclear reactor.

Venturing too close to places with high radiation levels such as mobile phone towers and microwave towers may also lead to the development of radiation sickness.

Exposure to medical devices such as X-ray and CT-scan do not cause radiation sickness as exposure is of low intensity and short-term.

How Can Exposure to High Doses of Radiation Prevented?

Vigilance is the main prevention method to avoid a case of radiation poisoning. Radiation sickness can be avoided by staying clear of places with high radiation levels. Staying informed is key to survival in case of exposure to various radiation levels.

In the event of an emergency caused by radiation exposure such as radioactive fallout, the following steps should be taken:

1. News with regard to the radiation incident must be followed.
2. Venturing outside the house should be avoided.
3. Doors and windows should be kept closed.
4. Air conditioning systems and fans should be switched off to let outside air come inside the house. This step is necessary to avoid contamination by radioactive dust particles.
5. In case of evacuation, instructions from local authorities should be followed.

How Can Radiation Sickness be diagnosed?

Diagnosis of radiation sickness in a possible case of exposure to high doses of radiation can be done in the following ways:

1. Details of distance from the origin of radiation and exposure time
2. Symptomatic diagnosis
3. Blood tests
4. Identification of the type of radiation
5. Dosimeter

How Can a Possible Case of Radiation Sickness be treated?

A patient with radiation poisoning can be treated in the following ways:

1. Complete decontamination of the patient to remove radioactive dust particles from clothing and body surface has to be done. This step is necessary to avoid any further complications.
2. Treatment of damaged bone marrow is necessary. This is done by blood and platelet transfusions.
3. Treatment for internal contamination by radioactive particles to remove any radioactive foreign material lodged inside the body.
4. Administration of Iodine pills.
5. Prescription medication for management of secondary ailments such as vomiting, diarrhea, and fever. These medicines can be availed at any retail or online pharmacy.

Radiation poisoning is a dangerous medical condition. In the absence of timely medical intervention, a patient may develop life-threatening conditions. In case, a patient absorbs large doses of radiation, the chances of survival decrease significantly. Such patients may require end-of-life care to transition from life in a comfortable manner.


#RadiationPoisoning #Acuteradiationsyndrome #Radiation