Radiation Poisoning Prevention

Radiation poisoning, which is also called acute radiation syndrome or radiation sickness, occurs due to exposure to a large amount of ionizing radiation. This HealthHearty article provides information or measures on the prevention of radiation poisoning.
HealthHearty Staff
Last Updated: May 2, 2018
Events such as the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombing in the Second World War or the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine (1986) immediately come to our mind, when anyone raises the subject of harmful effects of radiation. The dangerous consequences of radiation poisoning are not hidden from us. It's not just nuclear bombs and nuclear reactors that emit radiation, even electronic gadgets like microwaves, cell phones, computers, etc., do so.
Basically, there are two types of radiations: ionizing and non-ionizing radiation. Non-ionizing radiation is emitted from the natural sources and reaches us in the form of light, microwaves, radio waves, and radar. It doesn't cause much harm. On the other hand, ionizing radiation is quite harmful for us. This type of radiation has a harmful effect on the tissues and organs of the body. Prolonged exposure to this type of radiation puts one at a risk of developing diseases such as cancer. Some of the sources of ionizing radiation include X-rays, gamma rays, radiation therapy (employed in treatment of cancer), radiation due to nuclear bombardment or nuclear reactor accidents.
Symptoms of Radiation Sickness
Duration of the radiation, source of radiation, and part of the body exposed are factors that determine the severity of the symptoms. Affected individual is likely to experience symptoms such as:

Hair loss
Inflammation of exposed areas
Skin burns and open sores
Sloughing of the skin
Ulcers in the esophagus, stomach or intestines
Mouth ulcers
Bleeding from the nose, mouth, gums, and rectum
Bloody vomit and stools
Poor wound healing
Low blood pressure
Preventive Measures
A person who has been accidentally exposed to radiation should be immediately moved from the area where he/she got exposed. Also, contaminated clothing or items should be discarded. Refrain from applying ointments on the areas of skin that have been burned. Seek medical help at the earliest.
Preventing or Minimizing Exposure
As one is exposed to ionizing radiation during X-ray examinations, it is advisable to decrease the time gap of exposure to the radiation. Long exposures to x-rays increases the risk of cancer in the X-ray technicians and hence reducing the time gap is essential to reduce the exposure to radiation.
Increase the Distance
Another crucial prevention step is to increase the distance from the source of radiation. Gamma rays can travel larger distances. Generally, as a thumb rule, if we double the distance, the exposure to radiation is reduced by a factor of 4. Similarly, halving the distance would increase the exposure by a factor of four.
Shielding the Exposure
The better the shielding around the source of radiation, the lesser would be the exposure to the radiation. Alpha particles have the weakest energy, and even light materials such as paper and light clothing can work as shields. Beta particles have higher penetrative power, which is why a heavy clothing is required. Gamma rays possess immense energy, and a lead shield is essential to stop them.
On a concluding note, avoid unnecessary exposure to radiation. Also, people who work in radiation hazard areas should measure their exposure levels. In case of individuals undergoing radiation therapy, the parts of the body that are not being analyzed or treated should be covered with protective shields during X-ray examinations or imaging tests.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.