Potassium Iodide and Radiation: A Primer

This article was written in response to the possibility of radiation exposure following the March 2011 earthquake in Japan.

Many patients are contacting our clinic for information on how to best protect themselves and loved ones from radiation.  Many have read on the news of the long-term health risks related to the effects radiation can have on the Thyroid.  The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended potassium iodide as a means of protecting the thyroid gland.

It is extremely important to know that potassium iodide is, by no means, an innocuous substance.  There is significant risk of throwing your thyroid out of balance, creating what we call a thyroid storm, which is extremely unpleasant and potentially life-threatening.  Additional complications exist including potential allergic responses to the medication.  Potassium iodide is not to be used haphazardly.  All that said, radiation is extremely damaging to the thyroid and potassium iodide does offer some protection.

The richest source of iodide in nature is SEAWEED, and specifically dulse and kelp.  Adults can consume 3-5 grams/day which works out to a little less than 3/4 of a level teaspoon of powder.  Children under 12 years old should get no more than 1 gram/day of seaweed.

The WHO guidelines for protection from acute radiation exposure are as follows: the potassium iodide dose for adults is 130 mg/day for 3-4 days post radiation exposure.  It is not helpful to take prophylactically.  It should be initiated 12-24 hours before exposure and continued for 3-4 days after. Under age 12, the dose is 65 mg/day.

Again, watch for any symptoms of thyroid over-activity including rapid heart rate, high anxiety, bulging of the eyes, sweating, body heat, insomnia, and/or shortness of breath.

Also, watch for allergic responses including itchy skin, hives, skin rash, sneezing, runny nose and itchy eyes.

If allergic reactions and thyroid symptoms develop, potassium iodide should be discontinued immediately and one should seek medical assistance.

Please remember this is a very high dose to be used ONLY if radiation exposure is occurring. This is much too high for regular daily use.

We are providing this information for your knowledge, in no way are we suggesting that need for it currently. Be prepared and act out of love, not fear. Be safe out there and please send your prayers to those affected.

We will have more information coming out on this subject and will be making recommendations on what we will be doing personally in the upcoming days, so stay tuned.