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Ask Dr. Rick – July 2011 – Radiation Illness

July 11, 2011

Radiation illness has become a very hot topic recently due to the Japanese nuclear disaster, and although this is not normally a sports medicine topic, I believe it is very timely.

There are multiple signs and symptoms of radiation sickness, and it is extremely important to note that there will be excess levels of radiation in the atmosphere, in our foods, in the fish that we get from the Pacific Ocean and possibly in grains based on the levels of radiation emitted from Japan.

The absorbed doses of radiation are measured in gray (gy), and these doses of radiation are diagnosed using devices that readily measure the levels of radiation. Diagnostic radiographic tests, such as x-rays, result in small doses of radiation, and it would be unlikely that these tests could create enough radiation to be problematic.

The signs and symptoms of radiation illness include nausea and vomiting with mild exposure, and it may take a prolonged period of time to develop the nausea and vomiting. With severe exposure, nausea and vomiting could occur within eight to 10 minutes. Mild exposure will cause nausea and vomiting in approximately six to eight hours. Other symptoms include diarrhea, headache and fever; again, with large doses of radiation, these occur within an hour, and within small doses of radiation, it may take days to develop. The long-term symptoms of radiation poisoning include dizziness, disorientation, weakness, fatigue, hair loss, infections and poor wound healing.

It is imperative that if you feel that there has been radiation exposure to you or your family, these symptoms are explored. If you feel that there has been significant radiation exposure or if any of these symptoms are identified, please see your family physician immediately. When you see your physician, a device called a dosimeter will measure the absorbed doses of radiation in your body. There are other ways to detect radiation, but this is the most direct. Once it has been diagnosed, treatment includes: decontamination; treatment for damaged bone marrow, which might include protein-based medications that increase white blood cell production and help prevent subsequent infections; and potassium iodide, a nonradioactive form of iodine. Iodine is essential for proper thyroid function, and essentially the radiation is a destination that the thyroid provides. To try and avoid radioactive overload of the thyroid, potassium iodine protects the thyroid from radioactive overload. Another treatment is DTPA, which is a substance that binds the particles of the radioactive elements making them inactive.

If at any time these signs or symptoms become problematic, it is imperative to see your family physician immediately. There are treatments that are effective and ways to prevent long-term issues based on radiation exposure.

Ask Dr. Rick


“Dr. Rick, I have been on a new workout regimen and am quite sore after my workouts. Do you have any suggestions?”
– Larry, Barlow, IL.

Larry, thank you very much for your question. This is a common problem and has two answers. As you continue to exercise, obviously your soreness will diminish, but there are ways to decrease the amount of soreness you will experience post exercise. I recommend taking 800 mg of ibuprofen prior to your workout and 800 mg of ibuprofen after your workout. This seems to be very effective in decreasing post-exercise soreness. The other way is to decrease the amount of lactic acid buildup which includes hyperhydration, drinking a great deal of replenishment fluids after working out and taking small doses of aspirin after your workout.


“Dr. Rick, I have recently started playing squash and think I should be wearing goggles when I am playing. What do you think?”
– Allen, St. Louis, MO.

Allen, this is a very important topic. Eye injuries in racket sports are common; they usually they occur in racquetball and squash and can be very traumatic. It is important to wear not only protective eye wear, but the correct type of protective eye wear. Simply wearing prescription glasses is insufficient and I recommend seeing your optician or ophthalmologist if you wear prescription glasses. If not, I would recommend going to a sports store that carries appropriate eye wear, trying on two or three pairs and finding a pair that is comfortable and that is specifically for racket sports. This eye wear needs to stress relieve your anterior chamber and needs to be shatter-proof. Again, this is an important topic. Thank you very much for your interest.

July’s Medical Tip: Make sure your vitamin D3 intake is 4,000 to 5,000 mg per. daily. This needs to be vitamin D3.

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