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Radiation Poisoning  

 

Also called radiation sickness, Radiation Poisoning is any damage to an organ or tissue due to unprotected or excessive exposure to ionizing radiation leading to an interference with cell division – the process in reproduction and growth by which a parent cell divides into two or more daughter cells.


In general, there are two types of radiation poisoning:  

  • Acute Radiation Syndrome (ARS): a serious illness caused by a short term exposure to high amounts of ionizing radiation. The condition usually occurs within several months of exposure.  
  • Chronic Radiation Syndrome (CRS): This is also a serious medical condition that occurs in people after a long term exposure to radiation. This form of radiation sickness is very uncommon.  

The type of symptoms experienced the patients depends largely on the dose of radiation exposure. For instance, low doses tend to lead to development of gastrointestinal effects such as nausea and vomiting and symptoms related to decreased blood counts: infection, bleeding and others. Larger doses, in the other hand, often result in neurological effects and sometimes rapid and painful death. Radiation exposure can also increase the risk for different types of cancers; however these diseases are not included in the term radiation sickness. Treatment most often used to treatment acute radiation syndrome consists mostly of blood transfusions and antibiotics.  

Common Sources of Radiation Poisoning  

  • Nuclear warfare is one of the primary sources of radiation poisoning. Heat radiation from nuclear war causes thermal burns. The fallout from a nuclear explosion can cause Beta Burns. The Gamma Rays from a nuclear explosion cause gamma radiation. The gamma radiation is the most harmful of all the effects of a nuclear explosion. 
  • Nuclear reactors are also another cause of radiation sickness. Accidents in nuclear reactors and accidental exposure to radioactive material can often cause radiation sickness among the workers in nuclear reactors. 
  • Improper handling or disposal of radioactive material and devices can also lead to radiation poisoning. 
  • Gamma rays are more penetrating as compared to the alpha and beta particles. When these gamma rays penetrate the human body, one can see the symptoms of radiation poisoning. This is called gamma radiation. 

What are the Symptoms of Radiation Poisoning?  

If you suffer from radiation poisoning you will develop at least of the following symptoms:  

  • Headaches (CRS) 
  • Nausea (CRS) 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Decreased red blood cells. 
  • Decreased white blood cells. 
  • Sterility (in both males as well as in females) 
  • Uncontrollable bleeding in the mouth, under the skin and in the kidneys. 
  • Destruction of bone marrow cells. 
  • Damage of Gastric and Intestinal Tissue. Intestinal Bleeding. 

Can You Prevent Radiation Poisoning? 

 

Yes. The following methods can help you prevent this serious condition: 

  • Avoid Radiation Exposure - The longer a person is exposed to radiation, greater the risk of radiation sickness.  
  • Stay Away from radioactive substance - The more away you stay from the radioactive substance, the lower risk of exposure you face.  
  • Using Shields – if you work with radioactive materials always wear protective clothing. Apart from that, it is also said that radiation can be reduced by placing a layer of material between the source of radiation and the human being. The material, however, must be such that it absorbs the radiation. This is why nuclear fallout shelters have been constructed out of thick stone blocks. 

It is important to know that not all radiation is bad. In fact, radiation is now used as both cancer treatment and prevention (radiation therapy). The fact that radiation therapy is capable of preventing cell division, it is used to treat cancer which manifests by uncontrolled cells division. In short, cancer radiation therapy work by preventing the growth and spread of cancer cells in the body.