In a cases of radiation exposure, it is not possible to reverse the effects of any damage caused to tissues. It may be possible to alleviate some of the symptoms by using antiemetics to counteract vomiting, for example or antibiotics to fight infection if the immune system has been effected. Severla substances are also used to eliminate any remaining radioactibe materil in thebody after exposure.
Som examples of the steps taken to minimize the effects of radiaiton exposure are described below;
- The exposed individual is removed from the source of radiation.
- Antiemetics may be used to treat nausea and vomiting/. Examples include metoclopramide, domperidone, ondansetron and granisetron.
- Antibiotics may be administered to prevent secondary infections caused by immune system deficiency. If radiation exposure has led to destruction of the bone marrow, the number of healthy white blood cells produced in the bone marrow will be depleted. . This reduces the body’s ability to fight infection and antibiotics are therefore required to reduce the risk of infeciton occcurring. .
- In the event of damaged bone marrow tissue due to radiation exposure,blood transfusions and a bone marrow transplant may also be required.
- If only part of the body has been exposed to radiaiton rather than the whole body, treatment may be easire because humans can withstand radiation exposure in large amounts to non-vital body parts such as the feet, for example, without the effects being widespread across the body. For example, the hands received a dose of 100 Gy, the overall average dose across the body would be lees than 1 Gy, in which case use of the hands may be lost due to severe,localized burning but the patient may not have to endure radaiation poisoning.
- Potassium iodide is administered to prevent thyroid cancer in cases of exposure to radioactive iodine.
- Neumune is an androstenediol that has been developed as a radiation countermeasure and has progressed to phase I trials and achieved investigational new drug (IND) status.
- The bisphosphonates (used to treat osteoporosis) have also shown promise as treatments for reducing the harmful effects of radiation exposure.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc