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Radiation, Potassium Iodide and IC

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  • Radiation, Potassium Iodide and IC

    Given the worry that many people have about the radiation leaks in Japan, I knew we would get a question about potassium iodide and the bladder. Potassium iodide can help prevent thyroid cancer in patients exposed to intense radiation and by intense I mean you have to be VERY CLOSE to the radiation source to merit using potassium iodide.

    There are many stories floating around the internet about its use... but suffice it to say that potassium iodide should NOT be used prophylactically by anyone in the USA fearing radiation exposure at this point. Why?? Because the quantity of radiation reaching our borders is tiny and, more importantly, the risk of severe side effects is palpable. One expert also reported that people over 40 are much less likely to develop thyroid cancer thus it is usually suggested for the young. I encourage you to research it carefully and talk with your doctor if you are interested.

    In any case, I was asked if potassium iodide could irritate the bladder and I passed that question along to Dr. Lowell Parsons who said "I would not recommend its use and it could certainly bother her bladder." Obviously, if you were in Japan and exposed to high levels, then it could be appropriate but for a USA based patient, at this time, it's NOT recommended by any health authority.

    Here's what the Centers For Disease Control has to say about it:

    What is Potassium Iodide (KI)?
    Potassium iodide (also called KI) is a salt of stable (not radioactive) iodine. Stable iodine is an important chemical needed by the body to make thyroid hormones. Most of the stable iodine in our bodies comes from the food we eat. KI is stable iodine in a medicine form. This fact sheet from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) gives you some basic information about KI. It explains what you should think about before you or a family member takes KI.

    What does KI do?
    Following a radiological or nuclear event, radioactive iodine may be released into the air and then be breathed into the lungs. Radioactive iodine may also contaminate the local food supply and get into the body through food or through drink. When radioactive materials get into the body through breathing, eating, or drinking, we say that “internal contamination” has occurred. In the case of internal contamination with radioactive iodine, the thyroid gland quickly absorbs this chemical. Radioactive iodine absorbed by the thyroid can then injure the gland. Because non-radioactive KI acts to block radioactive iodine from being taken into the thyroid gland, it can help protect this gland from injury.

    What KI cannot do
    Knowing what KI cannot do is also important. KI cannot prevent radioactive iodine from entering the body. KI can protect only the thyroid from radioactive iodine, not other parts of the body. KI cannot reverse the health effects caused by radioactive iodine once damage to the thyroid has occurred. KI cannotprotect the body from radioactive elements other than radioactive iodine—if radioactive iodine is not present, taking KI is not protective.

    How does KI work?
    The thyroid gland cannot tell the difference between stable and radioactive iodine and will absorb both. KI works by blocking radioactive iodine from entering the thyroid. When a person takes KI, the stable iodine in the medicine gets absorbed by the thyroid. Because KI contains so much stable iodine, the thyroid gland becomes “full” and cannot absorb any more iodine—either stable or radioactive—for the next 24 hours.

    Iodized table salt also contains iodine; iodized table salt contains enough iodine to keep most people healthy under normal conditions. However, table salt does not contain enough iodine to block radioactive iodine from getting into your thyroid gland. You should not use table salt as a substitute for KI.

    How well does KI work?
    Knowing that KI may not give a person 100% protection against radioactive iodine is important. How well KI blocks radioactive iodine depends on
    • how much time passes between contamination with radioactive iodine and the taking of KI (the sooner a person takes KI, the better),
    • how fast KI is absorbed into the blood, and
    • the total amount of radioactive iodine to which a person is exposed.

    Who should take KI?
    The thyroid glands of a fetus and of an infant are most at risk of injury from radioactive iodine. Young children and people with low stores of iodine in their thyroid are also at risk of thyroid injury.
    Infants (including breast-fed infants): Infants need to be given the recommended dosage of KI for babies (see How much KI should I take?). The amount of KI that gets into breast milk is not enough to protect breast-fed infants from exposure to radioactive iodine. The proper dose of KI given to a nursing infant will help protect it from radioactive iodine that it breathes in or drinks in breast milk.

    Children: The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that all children internally contaminated with (or likely to be internally contaminated with) radioactive iodine take KI, unless they have known allergies to iodine. Children from newborn to 18 years of age are the most sensitive to the potentially harmful effects of radioactive iodine.

    Young Adults: The FDA recommends that young adults (between the ages of 18 and 40 years) internally contaminated with (or likely to be internally contaminated with) radioactive iodine take the recommended dose of KI. Young adults are less sensitive to the effects of radioactive iodine than are children.

    Pregnant Women: Because all forms of iodine cross the placenta, pregnant women should take KI to protect the growing fetus. However, pregnant women should take only one dose of KI following internal contamination with (or likely internal contamination with) radioactive iodine.

    Breastfeeding Women: Women who are breastfeeding should take only one dose of KI if they have been internally contaminated with (or are likely to be internally contaminated with) radioactive iodine. Because radioactive iodine quickly gets into breast milk, CDC recommends that women internally contaminated with (or are likely to be internally contaminated with) radioactive iodine stop breastfeeding and feed their child baby formula or other food if it is available. If breast milk is the only food available for an infant, nursing should continue.

    Adults: Adults older than 40 years should not take KI unless public health or emergency management officials say that contamination with a very large dose of radioactive iodine is expected. Adults older than 40 years have the lowest chance of developing thyroid cancer or thyroid injury after contamination with radioactive iodine. They also have a greater chance of having allergic reactions to KI.
    When should I take KI?
    After a radiologic or nuclear event, local public health or emergency management officials will tell the public if KI or other protective actions are needed. For example, public health officials may advise you to remain in your home, school, or place of work (this is known as “shelter-in-place”) or to evacuate. You may also be told not to eat some foods and not to drink some beverages until a safe supply can be brought in from outside the affected area. Following the instructions given to you by these authorities can lower the amount of radioactive iodine that enters your body and lower the risk of serious injury to your thyroid gland.

    Read more at:
    Last edited by icnmgrjill; 03-22-2011, 12:14 PM.
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  • #2
    Thank you, Jill. It's impossible for me to believe, but I heard on the news that the stores in our area are totally sold out!

    Stay safe

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    • #3
      I am allergic to iodine. I had something called KIE syrup (goes by a different name now) as a child, and broke out in hives and did not feel the greatest. They realized it was the potassium iodide. It was an expectorant for me while I had pneumonia. I am allergic to shellfish, so it makes sense.

      Kind of odd to be a chemist and allergic to iodine, everytime I use it I have to glove up to the extreme! This was a very interesting article, and information that I did not know about.
      24 year old Ph.D student in Organic Chemistry

      Loves to listen to music, play with my animals (cat, fish, 2 hamsters), and live life to the fullest each and every day.

      My blog (just started):

      Elavil 25mg (helped with nighttime urination-used to be 7 or more times a night, now just once)
      Cymbalta 60mg
      Gabapentin (Neurontin) (3200mg/day)
      Zyrtec 10mg
      Xanax 0.5mg up to 3 times a day(spasms, anxiety)
      Macrobid 100mg (only on days when doing an instill)
      Yaz Birth Control (3 months on birth control, then period)
      Pelvic floor therapy
      Valium 5 mg (inserted vaginally)
      MScontin 30 mg (3 times a day)
      Percocet 10/325mg (every 6 hours)
      TENS Therapy, CVS machine, 30 minutes once or twice a day
      Sanctura XR 60 mg (to help control severe bladder spasms that are causing urinary retention episodes and enable normal bladder sensations)

      *** 1/4 of a teaspoon of baking soda in an 8 ounce glass of water up to 4 times a day*****


      Currently doing hyaluronic acid instillations (cystistat-6 instillations, once a week, already had 4...not sure if helping)

      Used to do these:

      Solu-Cortef (act-o-vial) 100 mg: 2 mL
      Marcaine (bupivicaine) 0.5 % 25 mL
      20,000 units Heparin
      3 mL sodium bicarbonate

      Diagnoses: Moderate IC, scoliosis, asthma, ovarian cysts, PFD, IBS, Fibromyalgia, vulvodynia, Fowler's syndrome (mild) 'Central Sensitivity Syndrome.'


      • #4

        Thank You for researching and posting the information.


        • #5
          i'm also allergic to iodine (contrast dye).. found out one time when they did a test on me pre ic and my body freaked out (they said now this is supposed to give u the urge to pee and a hot flushed feeling throughout your body it will go away after the test)... the sensation didnt go away, it was indeed the weirdest feeling in my life.
          Newly IC diagnosed as of February 2011.

          Medications I'm on that seem to work:
          Zoloft- one once a day

          Failed Meds:
          Elmiron-after 4 months,digestive side effects got to be too much
          DMSO treatments(5-6)

          THERAPIES:gardening,cooking,IC Diet,Counseling,Lots of warm baths,stress reduction,heating pad or ice packs,meditation/deep breathing,listening to relaxing music,having fun on pain free days,drinking chamomile or peppermint tea,pelvic floor physical therapy
          Village Naturals Aches and Pains Peppermint Bath Salts
          Johnson and Johnsons Lavender Melt Away Stress Body Wash/Lotion

          Significant pain relief so far.

          MAY TRY:yoga,swimming/hydrotherapy and anti-candida diet if i can kick my sugar addiction

          Add me on facebook Angela Hasic

          Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
          where there is hatred, let me sow love;
          when there is injury, pardon;
          where there is doubt, faith;
          where there is despair, hope;
          where there is darkness, light;
          and where there is sadness, joy.
          Grant that I may not so much seek
          to be consoled as to console;
          to be understood, as to understand,
          to be loved as to love;
          for it is in giving that we receive,
          it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
          and it is in dying [to ourselves] that we are born to eternal life.


          • #6
            Re: Radiation, Potassium Iodide and IC

            Ironically, I came looking for Potassium Iodide and IC for a very different reason. In the last two years I have been suffering from terrible pelvic pain, pelvic nerve pain, persistent genital arousal, etc., and it has awaked my sleeping IC. I was Dx'd with pudendal neuralgia. I've now learned from an MRI that the injury from zumba that caused it might not have been in the pelvis at all but in my spine L5-S1. In that area I have a bulging disk abrading a nerve and a cyst. Either one could be causing all my symptoms + my leg, hip, and toe issues. I also have a giant cyst on the parapelvic of my left kidney that could also be causing issues.

            Anyway, while waiting to see a few surgeons and a nephrologist to discuss possibilities, I spoke with a friend and mentioned the cysts. She turned me on to using Iodine, specifically J . Crow's Lugol's Solution, to shrink cysts. I looked it up and darned if there isn't a lot of research for treating all kinds of internal and skin-based cysts. So, my bottle came from Amazon today and I note that it is 94% distilled water, 4% potassium iodide, and 2% iodine. It sounds like I can expect it to irritate my bladder from Jill's post.

            I guess I will try it anyway -- perhaps topically vs. orally. But I just have to say after 23 years with IC, I am so sick of all the things that could help heal me that I can't have. B vitamins, vitamin C, most herbs for nerve pain... and so many more... I hate that I have to look every ingredient in everything up before I rub it on or swallow it. Sigh. Wish me luck.

            Laura D in Florida
            Laura D. in Florida

            Share your poems and art about living with IC, and your IC-friendly recipes at

            IC since 1994: primarily utilize herbal/natural treatments due to intolerance to many medications. Daily: Marshmallow Root Tea, Hormones, Cystoprotek, Desert Harvest Aloe Vera, Claritin, and relatively strict adherence to IC Diet.