DESCRIPTIONRadiation sickness consists of the side effects that accompany radiation treatment for cancer or the aftereffects of accidental exposure to radiation. Body parts involved depend on the location of treatment or exposure. See
SIGNS & SYMPTOMS
Appropriate health care includes: physician's monitoring of general condition and medications; psychotherapy or counseling to reduce the stress of radiation treatment; hospitalization for radiation treatment or complications.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMS
The following vary widely, and are often temporary, depending on the radiation dosage and the area radiated: nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea; headache; fatigue and shortness of breath; rapid heartbeat; yeast infection in the mouth; dry mouth and loss of taste; swallowing difficulty; worsening of tooth or gum disease; hair loss; dry cough; heart inflammation with chest pain; burning, inflammation, or scarring of skin; permanent skin darkening; bleeding spots anywhere under the skin; anemia.
Radiation damage to the immune system and to healthy tissues.
For radiation treatment: poor nutrition and illness that has lowered resistance.
PREVENTING COMPLICATIONS OR RECURRENCEYour child should have a thorough dental checkup to detect tooth or gum disease before head or neck radiation treatment. Your child should eat well before radiation treatment to be in optimal nutritional condition. Anyone who works around radiation should learn and observe safety regulations.
MEDICAL TESTSLaboratory blood studies of hemoglobin, platelet counts, and white blood cell counts, and X-rays of treated areas.
Susceptibility to infections due to decreased resistance; sterility or birth defects; increased susceptibility to cancer -- especially bone-marrow cancer or leukemia. With radiation treatment, other complications depend on the area involved. Your doctor will explain possible complications for your child. Modern radiation equipment makes serious complications unlikely.
With radiation treatment, most side effects or complications disappear gradually afterward. With radiation accidents not severe enough to cause immediate death, side effects may not appear for years.
HOME CAREIf you are undergoing radiation treatments:
Use effective birth-control measures to prevent pregnancy until your doctor determines it is safe to have children.
If your child is undergoing radiation treatments:
Encourage your child to join a support group of people with similar experiences.
During radiation treatment, keep your doctor informed of how your child is feeling. Treatments can sometimes be interrupted until the child feels better.
If the radiation treatments result in hair loss, get the child a wig to wear until hair growth resumes.
Blood transfusions for anemia.
Antibiotics to fight infections.
Your doctor may prescribe:
Your child should be as active as strength allows, but the child should rest often.
DIET & FLUIDS
Your child should eat a balanced diet. The child may temporarily need a liquid diet or food prepared in a blender if there is a problem with swallowing. Intravenous feeding or use of a small stomach tube is also possible until your child can resume normal eating. A dietitian can help.
OK TO GO TO SCHOOL?When appetite has returned and alertness, strength, and feeling of well-being will allow.
CALL YOUR DOCTOR IF
Your child is accidentally exposed to radiation.
Your child feels very ill during radiation treatment, especially if there are unexpected symptoms.
Your child develops signs of infection, such as fever and chills, muscle aches, headache, and dizziness, during or after exposure or treatment.
New, unexplained symptoms develop. Drugs used in treatment may produce side effects.