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Preventing and Treating Radiation Injuries and Illness

  • The health effects of radiation depend on: the amount of radiation absorbed by the body (the dose), the type of radiation, how the radioactive material got in or on the body, and the length of time a person was exposed.
  • The best way to prevent radiation injuries and illness is to get inside as soon as possible, away from the radioactive material outside and shower or wash once inside (self-decontamination).
Radiation Alert Symbol

You should not leave your building or place of shelter until officials or emergency responders have said it is safe, unless you have a life-threatening condition.

  • If you have skin burns, nausea, or begin vomiting shortly after radiation exposure, seek medical attention as soon as it is safe to leave your building or place of shelter.
    • These may be symptoms of acute radiation syndrome (ARS), which is caused by exposure to large amounts of radiation over a short period of time.
    • Symptoms can appear within minutes to several days after you were exposed to large amounts of radiation.
  • If you were exposed to a small amount of radiation, you will not see any health effects right away, and may not have any long-term health effects. Radiation health experts will monitor people affected by radiation emergencies for any medical issues.
  • Emergency officials will be setting up community reception centers to check people for radiation exposure and contamination. 
  • Treat non-radiation related cuts, bruises or injuries with first aid. Keep cuts and abrasions covered when washing to keep radioactive material out of the wound.