Radiation Disease – What it is, Symptoms and Drug Treatments. Also, Radiation Sickness is damage to your body caused by a large dose of radiation often received in a short period of time (acute). The amount of radiation absorbed by the body – the absorbed dose – determines how sick you will be. Radiation Sickness is also called Acute Radiation Sickness, Acute Radiation Syndrome, or Radiation Poisoning. Common exposures to low-dose radiation, such as X-rays or CT scans, do not cause Radiation Sickness. Although Radiation Sickness is serious and often fatal, it is 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 fire that damaged the nuclear power plant in Chernobyl, Ukraine.
Causes of Radiation: Radiation is energy released from atoms as a wave or a small particle of matter. Radiation 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 scans, do not cause Radiation Sickness .
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Radiation Symptoms: The severity of the signs and symptoms of Radiation Sickness depends on how much radiation you have absorbed. How much you absorb depends on the strength of the radiated energy and the distance between you and the radiation source. Signs and symptoms are also affected by the type of exposure – such as full or partial body and whether the contamination is internal or external – and how sensitive the affected tissue is to radiation. For example, the gastrointestinal system and bone marrow are highly sensitive to radiation.
Absorbed Dose and Exposure Duration: The absorbed dose of radiation is measured in a unit called gray (Gy). Diagnostic tests that use radiation, such as an X-ray, result in a small dose of radiation – typically well below 0.1 Gy – focused on a few organs or a small amount of tissue.
Signs and symptoms of Radiation Sickness usually appear when the entire body receives an absorbed dose of at least 1 Gy. Doses greater than 10 Gy to the whole body are generally untreatable and usually lead to death within two days to two weeks, depending on the dose and duration of exposure.
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 an indicator of 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 of no apparent illness , followed by the onset of new, more serious symptoms. In general, the greater your exposure to radiation, the faster and more severe your symptoms will be.
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. The regions of the body most vulnerable to high-energy radiation are cells in the lining of the intestinal tract, including your stomach and the blood cell-producing cells in your bone marrow.
Radiation Diagnosis: When a person has experienced known or probable exposure to a high dose of radiation from an accident or attack, medical personnel take a series of steps to determine the absorbed radiation dose. This information is essential in determining the severity of the disease , which treatments to use, and whether a person is likely to survive. Important information for determining an absorbed dose includes:
- Known Exposure: Details about distance from the radiation source and duration of exposure can help provide a rough estimate of the severity of radiation sickness .
- Vomiting and Other Symptoms: The time between exposure to radiation and the onset of vomiting is a very accurate selection tool for estimating the absorbed radiation dose. The shorter the time before the onset of this signal, the higher the dose. The severity and timing of other signs and symptoms can also help medical personnel determine the absorbed dose.
- Blood Tests: Frequent blood tests over the course of several days allow 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 you were 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’s location of radioactive particles.
- Type of Radiation: A part of the larger emergency response to an accident or radioactive attack would include identifying the type of radiation exposure. This information would guide some decisions for the treatment of people with Radiation Illness.
Radiation Complications: Exposure to radiation that causes immediate radiation sickness significantly increases a person’s risk of developing leukemia or cancer later in life. Radiation Sickness can also contribute to short- and long-term mental health issues, such as pain, fear, and anxiety about:
- Experiencing an accident or radioactive attack
- Living with friends or family who didn’t survive
- Dealing with the uncertainty of a mysterious and potentially fatal illness
- Worrying about the possible risk of cancer from radiation exposure
Radiation Treatments: The treatment goals for Radiation Sickness are to prevent further radioactive contamination; Treat life-threatening injuries such as burns and trauma; Reduce symptoms; And manage the pain.
Decontamination: Decontamination is the removal of radioactive particles as much as possible. Removing clothes and shoes eliminates about 90% of external contamination. Gently washing with soap and water removes additional radiation particles from the skin. Decontamination prevents further distribution of radioactive materials and reduces the risk of internal contamination from inhalation, ingestion or open wounds.
Treating Damaged Bone Marrow: A protein called granulocyte colony-stimulating factor, which promotes the growth of white blood cells, may counteract the effect of Radiation Disease on the bone marrow. Treatment with this protein-based medication, which includes filgrastim (Neupogen), sargramostim (Leukine) and pegfilgrastim (Neulasta), can increase white blood cell production and help prevent subsequent infections. If you have severe bone marrow damage, you may also receive red blood cell or platelet transfusions.
Treatment for Internal Contamination: Some treatments can reduce damage to internal organs caused by radioactive particles. Medical personnel would only use these treatments if you were exposed to a specific type of radiation. These treatments include the following:
- Potassium iodide (Thyroshield, Iosat). This is a non-radioactive form of iodine: As iodine is essential for good thyroid function , the thyroid becomes a “destination” for iodine in the body. If you have internal contamination with radioactive iodine (radioactive iodine), your thyroid will absorb radioactive iodine, just like other forms of iodine. Potassium iodide treatment can fill “vacancies” in the thyroid and prevent the uptake of radioactive iodine. Radioactive iodine is eventually eliminated from the body in the urine. Potassium iodide is not a cure and is most effective if taken within a day of exposure.
- Prussian Blue (Radiogardase). This type of dye binds to particles of radioactive elements known as cesium and thallium. The radioactive particles are then excreted in feces. This treatment accelerates the elimination of radioactive particles and reduces the amount of radiation cells can absorb.
- Diethylenetriamine pentaacetic acid (DTPA). This substance binds to metals. DTPA binds to particles of the radioactive elements plutonium, americium and curium. Radioactive particles pass out of the body in the urine, thus reducing the amount of radiation absorbed.
Supportive Treatment: If you have Radiation Sickness , you may be given additional medications or interventions to treat:
- bacterial infections
- nausea and vomiting
Radiation Prevention: In the event of a radiation emergency, keep an eye on 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 stay in place or evacuate your area. Here are the main radiation prevention:
Shelter in Place: If you are recommended to stay where you are, whether 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 in outside air.
- Close the fireplace dampers.
- Bring pets indoors.
- Move to an interior room or basement.
- Keep an eye on your emergency response network or local news.
Evacuate: If evacuating is advisable, follow instructions provided by local authorities. Try to stay calm and move quickly and in an orderly manner. Also, travel lightly, but pick up supplies, including:
- Portable radio
- First aid kit
- Necessary Medicines
- Sealed foods, such as canned foods and bottled water
- manual can opener
- Cash and credit cards
- extra clothes
Please be aware that most emergency vehicles and shelters do not accept pets. Only take them if you are driving your own vehicle and going somewhere other than a shelter.