Radiation Exposure Symptoms

Radiation exposure sickness is generally associated with acute (a single large) exposure. Nausea and vomiting are usually the main symptoms. The symptoms of radiation sickness become more serious (and the chance of survival decreases) as the dosage of radiation increases. 

A few symptom-free days may pass between the appearance of the initial symptoms and the onset of symptoms of more severe illness associated with higher doses of radiation. 

Nausea and vomiting generally occur within 24–48 hours after exposure to mild (1–2 Sv) doses of radiation. Radiation damage to the intestinal tract lining will cause nausea, bloody vomiting and diarrhea. This occurs when the victim's exposure is 200 rems (1 Sv = 100 rems) or more. The radiation will begin to destroy the cells in the body that divide rapidly. 

These including blood, GI tract, reproductive and hair cells, and harms the DNA and RNA of surviving cells. Headache, fatigue, and weakness are also seen with mild exposure. Moderate (2–3.5 Sv of radiation) exposure is associated with nausea and vomiting beginning within 12–24 hours after exposure. 1 rem=0.01 Sv).

Annual limit on intake (ALI) is the derived limit for the amount of radioactive material taken into the body of an adult worker by inhalation or ingestion in a year. ALI is the intake of a given radionuclide in a year that would result in:

  • a committed effective dose equivalent of 0.05 Sv (5 rems) for a "reference human body", or
  • a committed dose equivalent of 0.5 Sv (50 rems) to any individual organ or tissue,

whatever dose is the smaller.

Phase Symptom Exposure (Sv)
1–2Sv 2–6Sv 6–8Sv 8–30Sv >30Sv
Immediate Nausea and vomiting 5–50% 50–100% 75–100% 90–100% 100%
''Time of onset'' 2–6h 1–2h 10–60m <10m immediate
''Duration'' <24h 24–48h >48h >48h 48h–death
Diarrhea None Slight (10%) Heavy (10%) Heavy (90%) Heavy (100%)
''Time of onset'' 3–8h 1–2h <1h <30m
Headache Slight Mild (50%) Moderate (80%) Severe (80–90%) Severe (100%)
''Time of onset 4–24h 3–4h 1–2h <1h
Fever Slight–None Moderate (50%) High (100%) Severe (100%) Severe (100%)
''Time of onset 1–3h <1h <1h <30m
CNS function No impairment Cognitive impairment 6–20 h Cognitive impairment >20 h Rapid incapacitation Seizures, Tremor, Ataxia
Latent Period   28–31 days 7–28 days <7 days none none
Overt illness   Mild Leukopenia;
Severe leukopenia;
High fever;
Dizziness and disorientation Hypotension;
Electrolyte disturbance
Vomiting; Severe diarrhea;
High fever;
Electrolyte disturbance;
  Mortality without medical care 0–5% 5–100% 95–100% 100% 100%
  Mortality with medical care 0–5% 5–50% 50–100% 100% 100%

Further Reading

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article on "Radiation poisoning" All material adapted used from Wikipedia is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License. Wikipedia® itself is a registered trademark of the Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.

Last Updated: Mar 14, 2011

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