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Non Medical Radiation Exposure


What is nonmedical radiation exposure?

Nonmedical radiation exposure may come from natural sources, such as the sun or the soil. Microwave ovens, computer screens, satellites, garage doors, and TVs all give off very small amounts of radiation. Most of the time these are not harmful. Some metal compounds, like uranium, naturally give off a harmful type of radiation and are considered radioactive. Other metals may be made by man to be radioactive. If you are exposed to high amounts of radioactive material, you may get radiation poisoning.

How might I be exposed to radiation poisoning?

  • Accidents: Radioactive material may accidentally spill during transport, such as from a truck or train. You may get exposed to radiation if you breathe or touch radioactive material that has spilled. It may also get into food or water sources that are nearby.
  • Terrorist act: Radioactive material may be released in a public place to cause harm to others. It may also be released in a nuclear bomb that could contaminate a large area.

What are the signs and symptoms of radiation poisoning?

Symptoms of radiation poisoning depend on how you were exposed, what you were exposed to, and how long the exposure lasted. Symptoms may start right away, or it may take weeks before you begin to notice them. You may have any of the following:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Ringing in your ears
  • Frequent colds or increased infections
  • Fever or burns
  • Headache or confusion
  • Nausea, vomiting, or bloody diarrhea
  • Unexplained bleeding or small red spots on your skin

How is radiation poisoning diagnosed?

Radiation poisoning may be diagnosed at the site of the incident. It may be harder to diagnose if you are exposed to radiation and do not know it. Your caregiver will examine you. He will ask you about places you have been in the last month. This may help find a common location and time among people showing signs and symptoms of radiation poisoning.

How is radiation poisoning treated?

  • IV fluids: This may be given to treat or prevent dehydration from nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
  • Blood transfusion: If you lose a lot of blood, you may need blood or parts of blood, such as red blood cells or plasma, given through an IV.
  • Bone marrow transplant: Radiation may damage your bone marrow and your body's ability to make blood cells. This may increase your risk of bleeding and infection. A bone marrow transplant will replace damaged bone marrow.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.