How much radiation do you get from an x ray?

Are you worried that an x-ray might cook your insides, give you superpowers, or turn you into the Incredible Hulk? Fear not, because we’ve got all the information on how much radiation a standard x-ray actually exposes you to.

Radiation: Not Just for Superheroes

Radiation is often associated with comic book heroes and nuclear power plants. But in reality, it’s all around us. It’s emitted by natural sources like rocks and cosmic rays, as well as man-made sources such as cell phones and microwave ovens.

When it comes to medical imaging, radiation is used to create images of our bodies that help diagnose problems like broken bones or internal bleeding. One of the most common forms of medical imaging is X-rays.

What Is an X Ray Anyway?

An X-ray machine produces electromagnetic waves that pass through your body and hit a detector on the other side. Dense structures in your body (like bones) absorb more energy than less dense structures (like soft tissue), making them show up brighter on the resulting image.

So what does this have to do with radiation? Well, every time those electromagnetic waves pass through your body they deposit some amount of energy along their path; this means they transfer some of their energy onto your cells – which can affect them^1!

Measuring Radiation Exposure

The amount of radiation a person gets from an x-ray depends on several factors:

  • The type of x-ray being done
  • The area being imaged
  • The patient’s age/size/gender
  • Whether they were exposed accidentally/limited exposure/permanent removal
  • As well as various technical settings chosen by radiologic technologists during exam!

But don’t worry – although there are many variables at play here, scientists have developed ways to measure just how much radiation each test delivers using units called milliSieverts (mSv).

A single x-ray rarely exposes a person to more than 1 mSv. To put that into context, you already receive about 3 mSv of radiation each year just from natural sources!

Are There Risks?

Don’t worry – you won’t be climbing any spider-infested walls or showing up on the news as radioactive man anytime soon. The risks associated with medical imaging are quite low.

For comparison’s sake, let’s take a look at how much radiation different types of exams expose you to:

Dental X-rays:

  • Exposure: About .005 to .01 mSv
  • Risk: Equal to about one day of natural background radiation

Chest X-ray:

  • Exposure: Around .1 milliSievert
  • Risk: Equivalent to about 10 days of being exposed naturally

Abdominal CT scan:

  • Exposure: Approx. 8 milliSieverts
  • Risk: Equivalent to around two years’ worth of normal background exposure

As we can see, even after multiple tests ,most people don’t get enough radiation dose that can cause harm or trigger severe effects like cancer^1.

How Can I Protect Myself from Radiation?

Just because there isn’t much risk associated with medical imaging doesn’t mean it’s not important to protect yourself when possible!

Here are some tips:

Speak Up!

Tell your health care provider if you have had any other scans done recently

Follow All Instructions

Make sure you follow all instructions given by healthcare providers and techs regarding protective items or time spent in exam room.

Pregnant women should tell their doctors

If someone is pregnant they should definitely report so, which may help reduce the amount of radiation needed for diagnostic purposes .

Be Informed

Do some research beforehand so you know exactly what kind of tests you’re getting and how much radiation exposure is typical.

Check your medical history

In some cases, people may have been unknowingly exposed to radiation through previous medical procedures or even accidents.


Radiation isn’t something to fear when it comes to medical imaging. Although there is always a risk associated , each exam usually exposes participants^1, with less than one mSv of radiation – which in most situations will not pose any risks . In fact, these exams are very important for diagnosing many health problems – so if you’re ever in doubt about whether or not to get an X-ray, remember that the benefits outweigh the relatively low risks that come along with them!


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