Radiation Emergencies and Your Health

Radiation can affect the body in a number of ways, and the adverse health effects of exposure may not be apparent for many years. These can range from mild effects, such as skin reddening, to serious effects such as cancer and death. This depends on the amount of radiation absorbed by the body (the dose), the type of radiation, and how and for how long the person was exposed.

Read more about radiation health effects in the Frequently Asked Questions list

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Possible Health Effects of Radiation Exposure and Contamination

  • Symptoms of Acute Radiation Syndrome may include nausea, vomiting, headache, and diarrhea. If you experience these symptoms after a radiation emergency, seek medical attention as soon as it is safe.
  • Radiation emergencies can cause emotional and psychological distress.
  • People who receive high doses of radiation could have a greater risk of developing cancer later in life.

Learn about other possible health effects

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Medical Countermeasures (Treatments) for Radiation Exposure and Contamination

Learn more about treatment options

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Health Information for Specific Groups

  • A developing fetus is the most susceptible to health effects from radiation exposure.
  • Radioactive material can be passed from mother to babies through breast milk.
  • Infants, children, the elderly, pregnant women, and people with compromised immune systems are more susceptible to health effects from radiation exposure. They should follow protective action instructions and seek medical attention after a radiation emergency as soon as it is safe.

Learn other specialized information for certain groups of people