Radiation Sickness

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Acute radiation syndrome (ARS) also known as radiation poisoning, radiation sickness or radiation toxicity, is a constellation of health effects which occur within several months of exposure to high amounts of ionizing radiation. The term generally refers to acute problems rather than ones that develop after a prolonged period.

The onset and type of symptoms that develop depends on the dose of radiation exposure. Relatively smaller doses result in gastrointestinal effects such as nausea and vomiting and symptoms related to falling blood counts such as infection and bleeding. Relatively larger doses can result in neurological effects and rapid death. Treatment of acute radiation syndrome is generally supportive with blood transfusions and antibiotics.

Chronic radiation syndrome has been reported among workers in the Soviet nuclear program due to long term exposures to radiation levels lower than what is required to induce acute sickness. It may manifest with low blood cell counts and neurological problems. Radiation exposure can also increase the probability of developing some other diseases, mainly different types of cancers, however these diseases are not included in the term radiation sickness.

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