Kids and Radiation Safety

concerned father with his wife and daughters outside

When your child is sick or hurt, you want them to get medical care right away. Often, this means getting an image through x-ray, fluoroscopy, CT scan, or other medical test that uses radiation. These tests can often help children, and sometimes even save their lives. But it’s important to use these tests only when necessary.

That’s because these types of exams expose children to ionizing radiation, which can be a risk factor for cancer. Exposure is especially concerning in children. For one thing, children are more sensitive to radiation than adults. Using regular equipment meant for adults exposes kids’ smaller bodies to more radiation. And younger patients have a longer lifetime for the effects of radiation to take their toll.

What to do? The US Food and Drug Administration, which regulates medical radiation devices, has some guidance for parents:

  • Keep track of your child’s imaging tests and discuss this history with the doctor any time a new test is recommended.
  • Ask if other tests that don’t use ionizing radiation – such as ultrasound or MRI – could be just as useful.
  • If it’s been determined that x-ray, CT scan, or other ionizing radiation imaging is the way to go, ask the imaging facility about adjusting the dose for your child’s height and weight.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master's-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

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