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General Practice 2023

Radiaç&Ionizing activity: what é, effects on he alth and what to do

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Radiaç&Ionizing activity: what é, effects on he alth and what to do
Radiaç&Ionizing activity: what é, effects on he alth and what to do

Ionizing radiation is a type of high-speed energy, which can arise naturally, such as in soil, water and the body, but can also be produced by industry, being used in tomography devices computerized, for example.

In addition, there are other types of radiation such as solar energy, or ultraviolet and non-ionizing radiation, which are the waves emitted by cell phones, present in radio, microwave and infrared.

Exposure to low levels of ionizing radiation happens every day and is generally safe. However, exposure to high levels of this radiation can cause burns, diarrhea, hair loss and, in severe cases, favor the appearance of some types of cancer, such as breast, skin or leukemia, and can even cause death.

Main he alth effects of radiation

The he alth effects of ionizing radiation depend on the person's age, level and time of radiation exposure, as explained below:

Exposure to high levels of ionizing radiation, in a short time, causes the death of cells, leading to the emergence of acute radiation syndrome, a disease that causes symptoms such as:

  • Nausea;
  • Infertility;
  • Weakness;
  • Hair loss;
  • Skin burns;
  • Diarrhea;
  • Dehydration;
  • Bone marrow damage;
  • Death.

On the other hand, exposure to small doses of radiation, over a long period, can cause changes in the DNA of cells, promoting the emergence of some types of cancer, such as esophageal, stomach, lung, skin, brain and leukemia.

In addition, children exposed to radiation can develop breast cancer, thyroid cancer, brain cancer and leukemia during adulthood. When the pregnant woman is exposed to radiation, the baby can have growth retardation, change in brain function and cancer. Learn about other risks of radiation in pregnancy.

How to lessen the effects of radiation

To reduce the effects of radiation exposure, it is important to perform decontamination, which is the elimination of radioactive material.

Decontamination can be done in 2 ways:

1. External decontamination

External decontamination is indicated in cases of contamination of skin, hair or clothing by radioactive materials and should be done immediately after exposure. For this, it is important to carefully remove the clothing from the body and place it in a bag or other container with a seal, leaving it in a reserved place.

In addition, it is also recommended to shower, without scratching the skin, with plenty of soap and water, washing the hair only with soap or shampoo, because the conditioner makes the radioactive material stick to the hair.If it is not possible to shower, wash your hands, face and unprotected parts in a sink with soap and water.

2. Internal decontamination

This type of decontamination is done to reduce or remove radioactive materials that have been absorbed through inhalation, ingestion of food or drink, and through wounds, for example. In this case, treatment should be done under the guidance and supervision of a physician, which may include the use of medications such as potassium iodide and diethylenetriamine pentaacetate. Find out what potassium iodide is suitable for.

How to avoid exposure to radiation

To reduce the level of exposure, it is important to perform exams that emit radiation only with medical indication. However, many procedures can be done with a lead vest to protect the body parts that will not be evaluated.

In addition, it is important that the woman always informs the doctor if she is pregnant or if there is a suspicion of pregnancy.

In the case of professionals who are exposed to this type of radiation for a long time, such as employees who work in the radiotherapy sector, laboratories or nuclear plants, there must be other precautions such as avoiding eating, drinking and smoking in the workplace; wash your hands regularly; and use personal protective equipment whenever recommended, such as a lead vest, for example.

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