How you would die
Large doses of ionizing radiation in a short time period lead to Acute Radiation Syndrome (ARS), aka radiation poisoning. The severity of ARS symptoms depends on the level of exposure . A radiation dose as low as 0.35 Gy could feel a bit like you have the flu expect nausea and vomiting, headaches, fatigue, and fever. If the body is exposed to a higher dose, somewhere between 1-4 Gy, blood cells begin to die. You could still recover treatment of this kind of radiation syndrome usually involves blood transfusions and antibiotics but you could also suffer a weakened immune response due to a drop in white cell count, uncontrollable bleeding due to a lack of platelets, and anemia due to a reduction of red blood cells. You’ll also notice a kind of odd sunburn if exposed to 2 Gy or more of ionizing radiation . Technically referred to as acute radiodermatitis, its effects include red patches, peeling skin, and sometimes blistering. Expect it to show up within 24 hours .
Between 4 and 8 Gy, however, a dose can be fatal but the route to death still varies on the level of the exposure. Patients at this level suffer vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, and fever. Without treatment, you could die just a few weeks after exposure.
The physicist Louis Slotin , who died of ARS during his 1946 research on the Manhattan Project, was exposed to a radiation dosage estimated to be just over 10 Gy of gamma and x-ray radiation. He wouldn’t survive today, even with modern treatments like bone marrow transplants . Patients exposed to radiation between 8 to 30 Gy experience nausea and severe diarrhea within an hour, and they die between 2 days and 2 weeks after exposure.
Absorbed doses greater than 30 Gy cause neurological damage . Within minutes, patients experience severe vomiting and diarrhea, dizziness, headaches, and unconsciousness. Seizures and tremors are common, as is ataxia, or the loss of control of voluntary muscle function. Death within 48 hours is inevitable.
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