JUN 21, 2017 02:48 PM PDT

How Radiation Sickness Works

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham
3 6 546

The aftermath of a nuclear disaster is beyond frightening. A Google search the Chernobyl disaster or the Fukushima disaster brings up horrific images of mutated plants and animals. While some of the photos may have been doctored, the effects of nuclear radiation are unequivocally real and dangerous.

We are exposed to radiation from natural sources every day, all the time. These contribute to a "background" radiation dose of about 3 millisieverts (mSv) per year (mSv is a measure of the body's absorption of radiation). A dental X-ray has a low radiation dose of 0.005 mSv, whereas a chest X-ray has about 7 mSv. In contrast, the mean dose of radiation exposure in the thyroids of Chernobyl evacuees was 490 mSv.

We know that ionizing radiation can cause cancer-inducing mutations in the DNA. However, the effects of this are not usually seen until years after the exposure. But radiation poisoning takes a toll on the body almost as soon as it occurs. Acute symptoms of radiation poisoning include nausea, vomiting, and general malaise. The body tries to compensate and these flu-like symptoms actually seem to go away. However, the effects of radiation are long-lasting and sickness will come back with a vengeance in the weeks following the exposure.

Watch the video to learn how the body reacts to radiation poisoning.
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
JUL 05, 2018
Videos
JUL 05, 2018
Can Food Be Prescribed?
Hippocrates, the father of medicine was famous for saying, "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” and what he meant was that eating
JUL 17, 2018
Chemistry & Physics
JUL 17, 2018
Ammonia the Next Renewable Fuel?
The most obvious drawback of renewable energy such as solar and wind energy is that their production lacks continuity. A solution is to convert the electri
JUL 17, 2018
Videos
JUL 17, 2018
About That EM Drive Idea...
Traveling through space requires a lot of fuel, and this limitation defines just how far we can go. Physicists have been experimenting with the ‘impo
JUL 23, 2018
Videos
JUL 23, 2018
Rare Diseases That Changed Medicine
In the US, a disease is considered rare when it affects fewer than 200,000 people in the whole country. But, in Europe, a disease is considered rare when i
AUG 10, 2018
Chemistry & Physics
AUG 10, 2018
The Chemistry in Yellowstone's Deadly Hot Springs
The Yellowstone National Park is famous for its geysers and the hydrothermal system otherwise known as the hot springs. But such spectacular landscape hide
AUG 17, 2018
Videos
AUG 17, 2018
Why do I self-sabotage before a big exam?
Have you ever been so stressed about an exam that you ended up sabotaging yourself? Psychologists use the term "self-handicapping" to refer
Loading Comments...