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Cutaneous Radiation Injury (CRI)

Cutaneous Radiation Injury (CRI) happens when exposure to a large dose of radiation causes injury to the skin.  A doctor will suspect the presence of a CRI when a skin burn develops on a person who was not exposed to a source of heat, electrical current, or chemicals.

People may experience a Cutaneous Radiation Injury (CRI) when:

  • They are exposed to certain types of radioactive materials that give off beta particles or penetrating gamma radiation or low-energy x-rays.
  • They experience Acute Radiation Syndrome (ARS); however, not everyone who develops CRI will have ARS.

Symptoms of CRI

  • Symptoms of CRI can appear from a few hours to several days after exposure.
  • The early signs and symptoms of CRI include:
    • Itchiness
    • Tingling
    • Skin redness (erythema)
    • Swelling caused by a buildup of fluid (edema)
  • Over time, other symptoms may develop depending on the site of the injury and the level of radiation dose to which the skin was exposed.

Treatment of CRI

  • After a radiation emergency, if you experience these symptoms, seek medical attention as soon as emergency officials say it is safe to do so.
  • If you cannot get medical attention quickly, gently rinse the area with water. Keep the area clean, dry, and covered until a doctor can provide additional treatment.


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