Ways & How

how to treat radiation exposure

how to treat radiation exposure

Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment procedure that uses high energy radiation, such as X-rays and gamma rays, to shrink malignant tumors and all cancer cells. The two common modes of administering the therapy are external beam radiation and internal radiation (also called brachytherapy). In the first mode, the radiation is delivered from a machine to the identified parts of the body, while in the second mode, the radiation comes from a radioactive device placed on the parts of the body that are invaded by cancer cells. After the therapy, there may be changes on the skin called burns, which must be addressed by learning how to treat radiation exposure properly. As pointed out on cancer.gov, radiation therapy destroys cancer cells by damaging their molecular components (DNA). The damaged cells can no longer sub-divide and spread to the other parts of the body. After the therapy, here are steps you should take.

  1. Know what to avoid. After the therapy, skin damage may not occur for days or even weeks. While there are no burns yet, avoid being exposed while under the heat of the sun.

    Never indulge in extreme temperatures like heating or ice pads. Perfumes, alcohol, cleansers, deodorants, hair removers, shaving gels, caffeinated drinks and powder should also be avoided.

  2. Keep the skin clean. While you are not supposed to scratch your skin to avoid irritating the burns, you should keep it clean. Use lukewarm water and non-alkaline soap. Avoid rubbing your skin, rather pat it gently. For radiation exposure to the head, use non-medicated shampoo when taking a bath.

  3. Moisturize the skin. The ability of your skin to retain moisture on the surface must have been affected by the radiation therapy. In order for the skin burns to heal faster, you need to apply a moisturizer. Do not use a lotion that contains petroleum material, menthol and alcohol. Instead, use hydrophilic lotions and skin creams that contain Aloe Vera. Scientifically, Aloe Vera products are effective in treating skin irritation, second degree burns and wounds.

  4. Apply corticosteroid cream. This should be used as directed when the skin is inflamed, but not when there are broken sections of skin. Wisegeek.com says that this “cream is an anti-inflammatory drug used to treat a variety of skin disorders” including rashes and skin burns. Apply an amount over the affected area. In a little while, the desire to scratch your skin will be minimized.

  5. Apply silver sulfadiazine cream. According to mayoclinic.com, you need a doctor’s prescription in order to buy this cream. The use of this cream becomes appropriate when the skin is broken and in case of an open wound. Also known as sulfa medicine, this cream can treat fungal and bacterial infections. Apply it to the burned areas to prevent the development of fungus on the skin.

  6. Apply sunscreen cream with SPF 15. Ideally, after the radiation treatment ends, you should not expose yourself outside during day time. If going outdoor is unavoidable, apply sunscreen lotion with Sun Protector Factor (SPF) 15 to protect your skin. As specified on dermatology.about.com, a cream that contains SPF 15 “filters 92% of the UVB,” which means it “will delay the onset of sunburn in a person who would otherwise burn in 10 minutes to burn in 150 minutes.” Essentially, using SPF 15 sunscreen cream will allow you to go out under the sun ten to fifteen times longer.

Know the severity of your skin complications before applying any of the above-mentioned tips on how to treat radiation exposure. The American Cancer Society categorized skin burns into three types, including immediate, acute and delayed reactions. Thus, it is recommended that you see your dermatologist so you can be guided accordingly. Lastly, drink plenty of water to support the nourishment of your skin.


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