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Radiation Sickness – Symptoms, Causes And Treatment

Verified By Apollo Doctors September 19, 2021 3457 0
Radiation Sickness
Radiation Sickness

Radiation sickness is an illness resulting from a high exposure to ionizing radiation.

This is an acute illness triggered by irradiation of the full body or sometimes some parts of the body by a high dose of radiation in a short span of time, generally a few minutes. 

What is radiation sickness?

Radiation sickness is also called acute radiation syndrome or radiation poisoning.

Radiation sickness is a common occurrence when your body is exposed to a high degree of radiation over a short period of time. Low radiation tests like X-rays will not cause radiation sickness.   

What are the symptoms of radiation sickness? 

Symptoms of this illness mostly vary depending on the amount of radiation you’ve absorbed in your body. The amount of radiation you absorb depends on the dose of the radiation energy, the extent of your susceptibilities and the distance between the patient and the origin of radiation.

Initial symptoms

There are a few significant early manifestations of  radiation sickness, usually vomiting . The duration between exposure  and the time of developing these symptoms indicates the extent of radiation absorbed . 

After the initial symptoms are over, an individual having radiation sickness may have no noticeable illness for a short period of time. 

Other symptoms will follow and these include: 

What causes radiation sickness?

Radiation sickness is triggered by exposure to an enormous amount of radiation, like an abnormally high dose of radiation from an industrial disaster.

Origins of high-degree radiation areas can include: 

  • Radioactive detonation 
  • Industrial accidents 
  • Nuclear weapons 
  • Radioactive material 

When do you need to see a doctor?

If you know you’ve been overexposed to radiation,  medical consultation is required, and  treatment is necessary.   

Call 1860-500-1066 to book an appointment. 

How can you prevent radiation sickness?

In case of an emergency: 

  • Stay in your area 
  • When you’re instructed to stay at a designated place , make sure you do so , and listen to the emergency response network or local announcements. Close and lock all the doors and windows.
  • Turn off air conditioners, fans and heating units that bring air in from outside.
  • Bring pets indoors.
  • Move to basement or an inner room 
  • Evacuate

If you’re instructed to evacuate, obey the instructions given by your municipality or local authorities. Try to relax and move quickly but  systematically. 

What are the probable treatment options for radiation sickness?

The objective of treatment for radiation sickness is to impede further radioactive contamination, deal with life-threatening damages, such as burns and trauma, reduce symptoms and cure pain. 

Some treatment steps include :

Decontamination: It involves removal of external radioactive particles. 

Treatment for damaged bone marrow: A protein known as granulocyte colony (stimulating factor that promotes growth of white blood cells) might counter the effect of radiation illness on bone marrow. If you have serious damage to bone marrow, you may also receive transfusions of red blood cells or blood platelets.

Treatment for internal contamination

  1. Potassium iodide: It is a nonradioactive form of iodine.
  2. Prussian blue: This type of dye binds to particles of radioactive elements called thallium and cesium. 
  3. Diethylenetriamine pentaacetic acid (DTPA)  

Other symptomatic treatments would also be administered .


A person who has absorbed huge amounts of radiation will have this illness. This can even lead to death. An individual with a lethal radiation exposure will need immediate treatments .

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How long do you have to be exposed to radiation to get sick?

About 5 or 6 hours after the initial radiation exposure, symptoms will start, and ultimately, can even be fatal.

Can radiation sickness be contagious?

Radiation cannot be spread from person to person. 

What happens if an expecting woman is exposed to radiation?

Depending on the stage of fetal development, effects on health can include growth restriction, malformations, distorted brain function and cancer. 

Verified By Apollo Doctors
At Apollo, we believe that easily accessible, reliable health information can make managing health conditions an empowering experience. AskApollo Online Health Library team consists of medical experts who create curated peer-reviewed medical content that is regularly updated and is easy-to-understand.

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