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. More information…
- 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).
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.
- For more information on ARS, visit The Acute Radiation Syndrome fact sheet.
- 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. Click here to find out more information about community reception centers.
- 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.
- For more information on the impact of radiation emergencies on health, go to Possible Health Effects of Radiation Exposure and Contamination.
Page last reviewed: October 22, 2020
Content source: National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH), Emergency Management, Radiation, and Chemical Branch