Follow-up Instructions for Individuals Involved in a Radiological or Nuclear Emergencies

Instructions for performing self-decontamination (if instructed to do so) (PDF - 41 KB)

  • As soon as you get home, take off all your clothes (including watches and jewelry) without tracking contamination into your living space. If possible, take clothes off in an outdoor space, like your garage.
  • Put all personal items you were wearing (including watches and jewelry) into a plastic, air-tight bag, close the bag carefully, and put it in a secure location outside your home, away from where people or pets will be.
  • Shower from head to toe using soap and warm (not hot) water. Do not scrub your skin with abrasive sponges or brushes. Use shampoo without conditioner on your hair.
  • Contact designated authorities to remove contaminated personal items. Do not transport contaminated clothes or personal items yourself. Do not wash your belongings or throw them in the trash.
  • Note: There is only a very small chance that contamination of your skin or clothes will cause long-term health effects. This is especially true if the amount of contamination in the event is low and if you remove it carefully.
  • Self-Decontamination Infographics: personal decontamination instruction sheets for the general public (HHS/CDC)

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Instructions for short-term monitoring of individuals released from the scene of a possible radiological/nuclear incident (PDF - 53 KB)

  • Contact your personal physician as soon as possible to report:
    • What happened to you during the incident
    • Any information you received from those who helped you during the incident
    • Where you were at the time of the incident
    • How long you were at the scene
    • Whether you may have been shielded from radiation by buildings, vehicles, or other solid objects
    • Anything else you know or were told at the scene about your circumstances at the time
    • The results of any tests (like blood tests) you may have received at the incident scene or at another medical facility
    • Whether authorities at the scene recorded your information into the log of people involved in the event
  • Your physician should consider performing a blood test called a CBC (complete blood count with differential).
    • If there is genuine concern that you could have been exposed to radiation, this should be done immediately.
    • The results of this test can help your doctor determine if radiation has affected your body's ability to make new blood cells.
  • If your blood counts appear to be abnormal, your physician should consider repeating the test daily until the problem is clarified.
    • Abnormally low blood counts, especially the lymphocyte count, may be a sign that you were exposed to high levels of radiation.
    • Abnormal blood counts may not necessarily be due to exposure to radiation, however.
    • Exposure to high levels of radiation can cause a condition known as Acute Radiation Syndrome (ARS).
    • If your CBC is abnormal and the results cannot be explained by other medical problems, your doctor should immediately contact a medical official responsible for helping people connected with the incident.

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Instructions for all persons involved in a radiological/nuclear incident (victims, persons concerned they may have been victims, and all responders) (PDF - 49 KB)

  • Register with an official government agency (federal, state, tribal, or local) charged with collecting the names of all persons involved in the incident, so that appropriate monitoring can be arranged later.
  • Monitoring is appropriate for all persons connected with the incident, including:
    • Persons who had any radiation-related health effects identified at the time of the incident
    • Persons who may not have had radiation-related health effects at the time but who were near the scene
    • Persons who participated in incident/emergency response: e.g., health care providers, EMS personnel, hospital personnel, security personnel, etc.
  • Listen for follow-up instructions from authorities managing the incident.
    • Since every incident is different, you should try to find out what recommendations are made by authorities after more is known about the whole incident.
    • Listen for how to contact officials who may be able to provide you with additional information or answer any questions you may have.
  • It is normal to feel psychologically affected by the incident (fear, anxiety, depression, hopelessness, etc.) and you should speak with your doctor about these feelings.

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