People are terrified about being exposed to radiation, including the stuff that some experts fear might leak from the quake-stricken nuclear power plants in Japan. That makes sense. Even if it doesn't prove fatal, radiation sickness can cause some pretty awful symptoms - and often proves deadly.
Keep clicking to find out eight of the worst...
Nausea and vomiting
Nausea and vomiting are typically the earliest symptoms of radiation sickness. The higher the dose of radiation, the sooner these symptoms appear - and the worse the prognosis. Someone who starts to vomit within one hour of exposure is likely to die.
Sometimes people with radiation sickness feel bad at first and then start to feel better. But often new, more serious symptoms appear within hours, days, or even a few weeks of this "latent" stage.
Radiation sickness can cause bleeding from the nose, mouth, gums, and rectum. It can cause people to bruise easily and to bleed internally as well - and even to vomit blood.
The problems occur because radiation depletes the body of platelets, the cellular fragments in the blood that are form clots to control bleeding.
Radiation "targets" cells in the body that reproduce rapidly - and that includes cells that line the intestinal tract. Radiation sickness causes major irritation of the intestinal lining, resulting in severe and sometimes bloody diarrhea.
Sloughing of skin
Areas of skin exposed to radiation may turn blister and turn red - almost like a severe sunburn. In some cases open sores form. The skin may even slough off.
Radiation damages hair follicles. As a result, people who get a big dose of radiation often lose their hair within two to three weeks. Sometimes the loss of hair is permanent.
Radiation sickness can cause people to feel weak and out of sorts - almost like having a bad version of the flu. It can dramatically reduce the number of red blood cells, causing anemia and and increased risk of fainting.
Radiation sickness can cause visible ulcers in or on the mouth. In addition, ulcers often form in the esophagus, stomach, and intestines.
Along with red cells, radiation sickness can reduce the risk of infection-fighting white cells in the body. As a result, the risk of bacterial, viral, and fungal infections is heightened.