Health Information for Specific Groups

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High-Risk Groups
  • Although anyone exposed to radiation may experience health effects, a developing fetus is the most vulnerable to the effects of radiation exposure.
  • Infants, children, the elderly, pregnant women, and people with compromised immune systems are more vulnerable to health effects from radiation exposure than healthy adults.
  • It is important for everyone, especially these groups to follow protective action instructions and to seek medical attention after a radiation emergency as soon as it is safe to do so.

Pregnant women should follow the same protective action instructions as everyone else.If pregnant women are advised to visit a community reception center (CRC) they should let CRC staff know about their pregnancy so that they can receive additional attention.

Contact your doctor for additional information. Your doctor can help you understand more about the risks of radiation exposure to you and to your developing baby.

Nursing Mothers
  • In a radiation emergency, it is possible for nursing mothers who are near the affected area to be exposed to radiation or to become internally contaminated with radioactive material.
    • Radioactive materials can be passed to babies through breast milk of mothers with internal contamination.
  • If possible, nursing mothers should consider temporarily stopping breastfeeding and switch to either breast milk (that was pumped and stored before the exposure) or formula, until they can be seen by a health care professional.
    • Formula containers and feeding supplies should be cleaned with a damp cloth or clean towel before use. Put the used cloth or towel in a plastic bag or other sealable container and place the bag in an out-of-the-way place, away from other people and pets.
    • If no other source of food is available, continue to breastfeed. Wash the nipple and breast thoroughly with soap and warm water before nursing.
  • If nursing mothers are advised to visit a CRC, they should let CRC staff know so that they can receive appropriate attention.
  • For additional questions or concerns, contact your healthcare provider.
Important note for women

If you are pregnant (or if you are thinking about getting pregnant) and you have questions about how radiation exposure could affect you or your pregnancy, you should talk with your doctor.

Your doctor can help you better understand the risks of radiation exposure to you and to your developing baby.

To request more information, you may call 1-800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) or contact us at
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Page last reviewed: April 4, 2018