April 2, 2011

With all the fear and misinformation nowadays with regard to radiation exposure and its effect on our health, it is important to get the facts.

Radiation is a form of energy that travels in waves or particles and can penetrate the body (x-rays are a form of  low-dose radiation used for beneficial medical diagnostic testing). High doses of radiation, especially over a short period of time, is very dangerous and can be lethal.

One of the most serious radiation exposure illnesses is called acute radiation syndrome (ARS). ARS occurs when all or most of the body is subjected to a high dose of radiation over a short period of time (usually within minutes) and the radiation penetrated to the internal organs.

The initial symptoms of ARS are nausea, vomiting and diarrhea that begin within minutes to days after the exposure. The symptoms may last from minutes up to several days and may come and go, after which the person may look and feel healthy for a short period time followed by loss of appetite, fatigue, fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and sometimes seizures or coma, which may last from a few hours to several months. Those who survive may take up to two years to recover from the symptoms of ARS.

Skin damage is common, which may start within a few hours after the exposure and include swelling, itching, and what looks like a bad sunburn. The symptoms may get better for a short period of time followed by a return of the symptoms. Complete healing may take weeks to years depending on the radiation dose received.

The likelihood of survival from ARS decreases as the radiation dose increases. Those who die from ARS usually do so within months due to infections and internal bleeding caused by the destruction of bone marrow.

The best way to prevent ARS is by avoiding or preventing exposure to high levels of radiation.

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