You have probably heard of ionizing radiation and its potential harmful effects on the human body and any form of biological tissue. However, if this area of knowledge is still a mystery to you, the following lines will prove to be of assistance.
Namely, a radiation burn is a consequence of exposure to radio frequency radiation or ionizing radiation. One of the most common types of tissue damage due to radiation is the process of getting sunburn, triggered by exposure to harmful UV rays of the Sun. Additionally, X-rays which are used for medical purposes, can have a damaging effect on our bodies, leading to radiation burns in some cases.
Once the cells in our body get damaged by radiation, our body responds to this negative change by triggering redness around the affected area. Bearing in mind that radiation can alter our DNA and turn healthy cells into cancerous ones, radiation burns are often related to the onset of cancer.
Many other forms of radiation can deliver different rays which can damage one's tissues. Therefore, radio, gamma and many other radiation frequencies need to be controlled and regulated, staying safe.
Beta burns are radiation burns which are caused by exposure to heat. Our skin and lungs are the two organs most commonly affected by these burns. Thus, the effect of such type of burns is very similar to sunburns. Fortunately, in contrary to gama rays which go through many protective surfaces, many materials can keep one protected from beta burns. As far as the damage done is concerned, beta burns deliver the same kind of tissue damage as radio burns do.
A nuclear tan is an expression depicting the effect beta burns have on the skin of people. Basically, the affected skin turns brown rapidly, due to the fact that keratine from the body reaches the surface of the skin, protecting its tissue from the radiation, absorbing it. However, this is possible only for levels of radiation lower than 70 keV. Everything above that needs extra protection.
The additional lines of defense from beta burns can be obtained through clothing, shoes or protective eye lenses.
If the radiation is continuous, it can cause different levels of severe skin damage firstly manifesting through itching or burning sensations, leading to anemia or increased skin pigmentation later. After several weeks of these changes, the skin usually gets prone to additional lesions and epilation.
While first degree beta burns are restricted to damaging the epidermis, the second degree burns of this type lead to blisters. Finally, the third degree beta burns manifest through ulcers, deep lesions and heavy tissue damage, possibly evolving to ulcerated necrotic dermatitis. Fortunately, most of the damage can heal in time, even though the recovery process involves scabbing and hair loss.
Treatment of Radiation Burns
Once a person experiences radiation burns, the affected area of his/her body should be covered with a dry, clean dressing. This will keep infections at bay. Bear in mind that wet covers are not as effective and are not a good choice.
If infections do occur upon the area affected by radiation burns, the systemic antimicrobal therapy is recommended. Due to the fact that this kind of burns are mostly related with warfare and nuclear weapons, military medical squads are trained to provide this therapy.
Radioactive fallout is the main cause behind the radiation damage. Once an explosion takes place the fission products containing a very strong beta activity are released. These usually contain two beta emissions per a single gamma photon.
Nuclear weapon tests usually reveal unexpected or surprising side effects, apart from the destructive force itself. In fact, during the Trinity test, the fallout of the explosion led to burn damage to the backs of cattle found in the area which was following the direction of the wind. The wounds were temporary, resulting in burns, bleeding and hair loss.
Moreover, dogs were affected too, with their backs and paws burnt. According to the military research done on the affected cows, some of them managed to restore their previous hair quality, while others kept marks of the endured burns.
Some tests, like the Castle Bravo one, surpassed the expectations the researchers had, due to the fact that they were too strong. The fallout of the mentioned test resembling white dust was falling upon Rongelap Atoll burning the residents on many of their body parts. They suffered beta burns which later evolved into epilation and formation of ulcers as well as other problems of this type.
In general, many other tests resulted in unexpected damage due to radioactive fallout, even killing cattle or leading to death once these animals fed on the contaminated fields.
All in all, ionizing radiation can lead to various forms of damage, usually affecting the skin or the lungs of the exposed living organisms. Adequate protection needs to be applied, keeping all the body parts safe from any forms of radiation. However, sometimes, like in cases of fallout exposure, clothing is not a protection enough. Unfortunately, this was usually learned through the process of trial and error, humans and animals being the necessary victims.