Radiation sickness is a disease that occurs as a result of exposure of the human body to ionizing radiation, with the symptoms that may vary depending on the absorbed dose as well as the radiation type and the duration of exposure.
Radiation sickness may be caused by different types of radiation and radioactive substances contained in the air, food, or water. Radioactive substances may enter the human body with air or food, get absorbed through the skin and eyes, injected or inhaled during medical treatment, etc.
The progression of the disease has several major phases. The first phase is characterized by nausea, possible vomiting, dryness and bitter taste in the mouth. Patients’ complaints include tiring quickly, headache, and drowsiness. This phase is accompanied by low blood pressure and, in some cases, by fever, diarrhea, and loss of consciousness.
The above symptoms are observed in the cases with the absorbed dose not exceeding 10 Gy. If the dose does exceed 10 Gy, the symptoms include skin reddening, with a pronounced cyanosis (bluish or purplish discoloration) in the most affected areas of the body. The first phase of radiation sickness is also characterized by the following symptoms: heartbeat rate changes, decreased muscle tone, trembling fingers, weakened tendon reflexes.
These immediate reaction symptoms disappear within about 3-4 days after the exposure. Then the second – latent – phase begins, lasting from two weeks to a month. It is marked by general improvement, with the only observable abnormalities being the changes in heartbeat rate and blood pressure. In some cases, motor coordination dysfunction, weakened reflexes, eyeball tremors, and other neurological abnormalities are also possible during this phase.
After 12 days with an absorbed dose of more than 3 Gy, progressive hair loss and other signs of skin damage start to develop. With a dose of more than 10 Gy, radiation sickness immediately progresses from the first phase to the third one, which is characterized by severe symptoms indicating pathological changes within the hematopoietic (blood-forming) system, development of various infections, and hemorrhage, as well as marked sluggishness, decreased level of consciousness, increasing cerebral edema, and falling muscle tone.
If you or your loved ones appear to have any of the symptoms described above, consult a doctor immediately! Radiation sickness is easy to avoid if you regularly check radiation level with a dosimeter. To order or find out more about dosimeters, click on the link