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Radiation Sickness

Radiation sickness (also called acute radiation syndrome) happens when a person is exposed to large amounts of radiation all at once.

Exposure to small amounts of radiation—like from an X-ray or CT scan—doesn't cause any symptoms. But exposure to large amounts of radiation all at once—like from a nuclear accident—may cause radiation sickness and death.

Symptoms of radiation sickness may include:

  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  • Fever.
  • Fatigue.
  • Feeling weak, faint, or dizzy.
  • Hair loss.
  • Skin redness, itching, swelling, or burns.
  • Pain.
  • Seizures.

People who have been exposed to large amounts of radiation and have these symptoms need to see a doctor right away.

Last Revised: April 16, 2013

Author: Healthwise Staff

Medical Review: E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Christine Hahn, MD - Epidemiology

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