Radiation Burns

Radiation burns are caused by exposure to radiation. Radiation burns can cause harm to skin and other body tissues, depending on the severity of the burn. Radiation burns differ from other types of burns, as the cell structure can be altered as the body responds to the radiation, causing cell mutations and cancer in some cases.

Causes of Radiation Burns

The most common type of radiation burn is caused by exposure to ultraviolet light, most often the sun. Radiation burns can also be caused by radiation therapy, exposure to high frequency microwaves or radio waves, and exposure to nuclear energy. Gamma rays can cause deep tissue gamma burns, while beta particles cause shallower beta burns, which usually only harm the skin’s surface. The extent of the damage is often based on the intensity of the radiation, and the amount of time that the body is exposed to it.


Radio Waves

Radio waves can also cause radiation burns. The body will absorb high frequency radio waves and convert the waves to heat. The FCC requires radio stations to evaluate emissions safety above 50 watts. The human body can become resonant at certain frequencies, so higher frequencies are considered dangerous and are monitored for safety.

Types of Radiation Burns

Specific types of radiation burns may occur depending on the source of the radiation. Radiation dermatitis is often caused by cancer treatment. Fallout burns are the result of exposure to nuclear radiation, such as bombs used in chemical warfare.

Radiation Dermatitis

Radiation burns can be caused by radiation treatment for cancer, called radiation dermatitis. Radiation dermatitis can be acute or chronic. Acute radiodermatitis occurs shortly following radiation therapy and may cause redness of the skin and blistering. Chronic radiodermatitis is often dormant for a long period of time, after which carcinomas and skin reactions develop.

Fallout Burns

Radiation burns that are a result of nuclear bomb blasts are lethal to those within a certain radius of the blast, usually a few miles. Body tissues and clothing are incinerated within milliseconds. Those that are farther away from the blast may experience charring of the skin and severe internal burns.

Radiation from these bombs can affect a wide area, and may cause cancers and deformities in people that otherwise show no sign of radiation burns. Radiation from bombs has also been known to cause brain death, where the patient drops dead days later without warning. Sepsis and radiation sickness can also develop without warning. Radiation can have lingering effects, causing deformities and complications in babies born to parents that have been exposed to nuclear radiation.

Treatment and Care

Radiation burns on the skin should be kept moisturized, clean, and covered. Bathing should be done in warm water, and skin should be carefully patted dry, to avoid tears and injuries. Sunlight should be avoided, and patients should wear loose fitting clothing or bandages over the affected area. Patients that are suffering from severe burns on the skin or that may be suffering from internal injuries as a result of radiation exposure should seek medical treatment.




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