When a person is exposed to radioactive energy being emitted by radioactive material then it is known as radioactive radiation exposure. A very common example of such exposure to radiation is X-ray used in medicine. The type of symptoms that the person shows and the time for onset of the signs depends on the dose of exposure. Small dose of radiation exposure results in nausea and vomiting. When a person is exposed to large doses of radiation then the common symptoms are neurological effect and in worse cases death.
The causes of radioactive radiation exposure can be categorized into two parts: external and internal. The radiation exposure is termed as external when the ionizing radiations sources are present outside the body of the organism, which is exposed to the radioactive radiation. A few very common examples of external exposure are when a person carries sealed ionizing radiation sources in his pocket, a space traveler who is exposed to the cosmic rays, a person suffering from cancer undergoing teletherapy or brachytherapy. Internal radioactive exposure occurs when the radioactive material enters the organism and the atoms get incorporated in the organism.
Nuclear weapons and the tests of nuclear bomb are a very complex source of radioactive radiation exposure. A person who is exposed to radioactive radiation from such nuclear tests gets three kinds of burns, namely: thermal burns, beta burns and gamma burns. The thermal burns are caused by the infrared radiations. Beta burns are caused by the ionizing beta radiations. These radiations cause a localized burn because they have weak penetrating power and also possess a short range. The gamma radiations emanating from radioactive sources have high penetrating power and result in irradiation of the whole body.
The earliest symptoms of exposure to radioactive radiation are nausea and disorientation. However, the time of onset of these signs depends on the level of exposure. The effect of radiation on the body is depletion of the platelets which aid in clot-formation. This will result in wounds that will not heal. Also, because the body loses the ability to form blood clots so the affected person can experience bleeding from nose, mouth and rectum. Radiation also causes damage to the hair follicles; this consequently leads to rapid hair loss. When a person is exposed to a very high dose of radioactive radiation then the bone marrow and the white blood cells are damaged. This increases the risk of catching infections (bacterial, viral and fungal).
The best way to minimize radiation exposure is to minimize the rate of exposure. Increasing the distance from the radioactive source it reduces the dose of radiation exposure. A very simple method of following this while working with radioactive materials is to handle them with forceps rather than using fingers. The dose is also directly proportional to the time for which the organism is exposed. So, while performing a task which involves radioactive materials one must be quick. In the field of medicine the radiation exposure can be reduced by managing properly the dose of exposure that is given to the patient.