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Gulf War—Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm

If you served in the Gulf War in Operation Desert Shield or Operation Desert Storm anytime after August 2, 1990, you may be at risk of certain health conditions. Learn about these conditions and what to do next to take care of your health.

What health risks should I know about related to my service in the Gulf War?

You may be at risk of:

  • Health problems caused by toxic chemicals or other hazardous materials in the environment, like:

  • Illnesses and injuries caused by:

    • Extreme heat: Health problems (like heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and sunburn) that can be caused by serving in hot desert climates
    • Toxic embedded fragments: Shrapnel and other metals (some containing chemicals) that stay in your body after an injury and can cause injury at the site of the fragment or in other parts of your body
    • Noise: Harmful sounds from guns, explosives, rockets, heavy weapons, jets and aircraft, and machinery that can cause or contribute to hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
    • Infectious diseases: There are 9 infectious diseases related to Southwest Asia and Afghanistan military service. These are malaria, brucellosis, campylobacter jejuni, coxiella burnetii (Q Fever), mycobacterium tuberculosis, nontyphoid salmonella, shigella, visceral leishmaniasis, and West Nile Virus.
    • Occupational (job-related) hazards: Chemicals, paints, radiation, and other hazards you may have come in contact with through your military job
  • Possible side effects of:

    • Vaccinations: Vaccines given to help prevent infectious diseases as well as anthrax and botulinum toxoid. These vaccines are being studied as one possible cause of chronic multi-symptom illnesses in Gulf War Veterans.
    • Pyridostigmine bromide (PB): An anti-nerve agent pill used as a pretreatment to protect military personnel in the event of an attack with the nerve agent soman. So far, research shows that there’s no evidence to link PB to multi-symptom illnesses in Gulf War Veterans, but we continue to monitor these Veterans’ health issues.

What should I do now?

Take these steps to make sure you’re taking care of your health:

  1. Talk to your primary health care provider or your local VA environmental health coordinator about any health concerns related to your military service. Find your local VA environmental health coordinator.

  2. Ask about getting a free exam and joining these registries to document your exposures and health concerns:
    The Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry
    The Gulf War Registry
    The Ionizing Radiation Registry

  3. Find out if you can get disability compensation (monthly payments) and other benefits if you have an illness or injury caused—or made worse—by your active-duty service.
    See if you qualify for disability benefits due to Gulf War Illness.
    See if you qualify for disability benefits due to contact with hazardous materials.

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