Radiation sickness which is also called radiation poisoning or acute radiation syndrome is an illness caused after exposure to large dose of radiation. Radiation sickness occurs mainly due to prolonged exposure or acute exposure to radiation. Individuals working in radiation areas like atomic reactor, radiology department or mines are vulnerable to develop radiation sickness.
The use of radioactive material in every facility such as scientific laboratory, atomic reactor, weapon development, is strictly monitored. However, sometimes general population may get over exposed to this material accidentally with diagnostic procedures such as X-ray, radiotherapy, atomic bomb explosion, and nuclear reactor accidents.
Radiation sickness manifests its chief effect on cells, tissues, and whole body. It increases genetic abnormality, cancer risk, and many more conditions.
Symptoms Of Radiation Sickness
The symptoms and signs of radiation sickness depend on many factors. It depends on the radioactive material you are exposed, the amount of radiation absorbed by the body, the distance between the source of radiation and your body etc. Radiation sickness is commonly observed in patients suffering from cancer and is undergoing radiation therapy. Here are following symptoms of radiation sickness:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of hair from scalp and all over the body
- Ulcers in mouth
Severe symptoms develop if the amount of radiation absorbed by the body is more.The symptoms are;
- High fever
- Mental confusion
- Blood in stool
- Easy bruising
- Bleeding from orifices
- Peeling of skin
- Skin burns which can be first to third degree depending on the exposure.
- Ulcers on skin and inside the mouth.
What Causes Radiation Sickness?
Basically there are two reasons that may cause radiation sickness. It can be the result of occupational hazard which can occur in people who are working in areas that have radioactive material. For example people are susceptible to get exposed to radiation while working in an atomic reactor. Exposure to high dose of radiation can occur after atomic bomb blast, nuclear reactor accidents etc.
Non occupational hazards leading to radiation sickness are more common. Especially people undergoing radiation therapy for cancer treatment have mild to moderate symptoms of radiation sickness. Usually common X-ray and CT scanning do not produce radiation sickness. However, accidental exposure to high dose of X-ray can be a cause for radiation sickness, but seldom has it occurred.
Treatment Options For Radiation Sickness
If the person is exposed to high dose of radiation and he is suffering from radiation sickness, the primary aim is to prevent further pollution, treat burns, injuries and other life threatening symptoms.
There is no specific cure for radiation sickness but the symptoms can be controlled. For example vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, and skin burns can be treated with specific medicine symptomatically. Topical ointments and home remedies such as honey are beneficial in treating ulcers and burns caused in radiation sickness. Organic honey, calendula, and Echinacea are useful if applied locally over the wound.
If bone marrow is severely damaged after exposure to massive dose of radiation, bone marrow transplantation may be necessary. Severe form of radiation sickness due to absorption of large dose of radiation can increase fatality. People with severe form of radiation sickness live for few days or weeks.