This article was originally published by Tess Pennington at Ready Nutrition.
One of the preparedness staples recommended for those concerned about radiation poisoning is potassium iodide tablets which are a recommended preparedness item for those wanting to be ready for nuclear and EMP preparedness threats. This guide will give you insight on how to safely take potassium iodide tablets and how to stay safe and protected during uncertain times.
It’s a cold, hard fact that we live in uncertain times and things don’t seem to be getting any better. For years I have urged you all to get preparations together for short and long-term situations, and all the while we continue sliding down the slippery slope of disaster.
Here’s a scenario we are all quietly thinking about: If the US nuclear facilities were compromised, what would you do? How could you care for your loved ones? We have covered the topic of preparedness for a nuclear war before, but we have not discussed immediate actions to take within the first hours that such a nightmare becomes a reality. First, let us mention again Cresson Kearney’s work “Nuclear War Survival Skills,” which can also be downloaded from the internet. It is the end-all, be-all for information on preparedness for a nuclear war.
For those of you new to prepping, I recommend you read some links to learn how to better prepare your family:
- The Family Preparedness Guide to Surviving a Nuclear Disaster
- 15 Priorities You Need to Follow In the Event of a Nuclear War
- 7 Natural Supplements You Should Have in Case of Nuclear Fallout
- How the Army Trains to Survive an ‘Atomic Battlefield’
One of the preparedness staples recommended for those concerned about radiation poisoning is potassium iodide tablets which are a recommended preparedness item for those wanting to be ready for Nuclear and EMP Preparedness threats. According to the CDC, “KI (potassium iodide) is a salt of stable (not radioactive) iodine that can help block radioactive iodine from being absorbed by the thyroid gland, thus protecting this gland from radiation injury. Further, it can be found on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines, and it is commercially produced in quantity in the U.S. It is specifically used in medicine to block the excess intake of radiation by the thyroid, hence its value in a nuclear disaster/situation. For emergency purposes, potassium iodide tablets are given out by emergency responders to prevent radioiodine uptake. This is a deadly form of radiation poisoning caused primarily by the uptake by the human body of iodine-131, produced with a fission reaction found in a nuclear explosion or a leakage.
- Bleeding from the nose, mouth, gums, and rectum
- Bloody stool
- Hair loss
- Inflammation of exposed areas (redness, tenderness, swelling, bleeding)
- Mouth ulcers
- Nausea and vomiting
- Open sores on the skin
- Skin burns (redness, blistering)
- Sloughing of skin
- Ulcers in the esophagus, stomach, or intestines
- Vomiting blood
How does KI (potassium iodide) work?
The thyroid gland cannot tell the difference between stable and radioactive iodine. It will absorb both.
KI (potassium iodide) blocks 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.
- Time after contamination: The sooner a person takes KI, the more time the thyroid will have to “fill up” with stable iodine.
- Absorption: The amount of stable iodine that gets to the thyroid depends on how fast KI is absorbed into the blood.
- Dose of radioactive iodine: Minimizing the total amount of radioactive iodine a person is exposed to will lower the amount of harmful radioactive iodine the thyroid can absorb.
Who can take KI (potassium iodide)?
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 amounts of iodine in their thyroid are also at risk of thyroid injury.
Infants (including breast-fed infants)
Infants have the highest risk of getting thyroid cancer after being exposed to radioactive iodine. All infants, including breast-fed infants, need to be given the dosage of KI (potassium iodide) recommended for infants.
- Infants (particularly newborns) should receive a single dose of KI. More than a single dose may lead to later problems with normal development. Other protective measures should be used.
- In cases where more than one dose is necessary, medical follow-up may be necessary.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that all children internally contaminated with (or likely to be internally contaminated with) radioactive iodine take KI (potassium iodide) unless they have known allergies to iodine (contraindications).
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 (potassium iodide). Young adults are less sensitive to the effects of radioactive iodine than are children.
Because all forms of iodine cross the placenta, pregnant women should take KI (potassium iodide) to protect the growing fetus. Pregnant women should take only one dose of KI following internal contamination with (or likely internal contamination with) radioactive iodine.
Women who are breastfeeding should take only one dose of KI (potassium iodide) if they have been internally contaminated with (or are likely to be internally contaminated with) radioactive iodine. They should be prioritized to receive other protective action measures.
Adults older than 40 years should not take KI (potassium iodide) 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.
- Adults older than 40 are more likely to have allergic reactions to or adverse effects from KI.
How is KI (potassium iodide) given?
The FDA has approved two different forms of KI (potassium iodide), tablets and liquid, that people can take by mouth after a radiation emergency involving radioactive iodine.
Tablets come in two strengths, 130 milligrams (mg) and 65 mg. The tablets have lines on them so that they may be cut into smaller pieces for lower doses.
For the oral liquid solution, each milliliter (mL) contains 65 mg of KI (potassium iodide).
According to the FDA, the following doses are appropriate to take after internal contamination with (or likely internal contamination with) radioactive iodine:
- Newborns from birth to 1 month of age should be given 16 mg (¼ of a 65 mg tablet or ¼ mL of solution). This dose is for both nursing and non-nursing newborn infants.
- Infants and children between 1 month and 3 years of age should take 32 mg (½ of a 65 mg tablet OR ½ mL of solution). This dose is for both nursing and non-nursing infants and children.
- Children between 3 and 18 years of age should take 65 mg (one 65 mg tablet OR 1 mL of solution). Children who are adult size (greater than or equal to 150 pounds) should take the full adult dose, regardless of their age.
- Adults should take 130 mg (one 130 mg tablet OR two 65 mg tablets OR two mL of solution).
- Women who are breastfeeding should take the adult dose of 130 mg.
How often should KI (potassium iodide) be taken?
Taking a stronger dose of KI (potassium iodide), or taking KI more often than recommended, does not offer more protection and can cause severe illness or death.
A single dose of KI (potassium iodide) protects the thyroid gland for 24 hours. A one-time dose at recommended levels is usually all that is needed to protect the thyroid gland.
In some cases, people can be exposed to radioactive iodine for more than 24 hours. If that happens, public health or emergency management officials may tell you to take one dose of KI (potassium iodide) every 24 hours for a few days.
Avoid repeat dosing with KI (potassium iodide) for pregnant and breastfeeding women and newborn infants.
What are the side effects of KI (potassium iodide)?
Side effects of KI (potassium iodide) may include stomach or gastrointestinal upset, allergic reactions, rashes, and inflammation of the salivary glands.
When taken as recommended, KI (potassium iodide) can cause rare adverse health effects related to the thyroid gland.
These rare adverse effects are more likely if a person:
- Takes a higher than the recommended dose of KI
- Takes the drug for several days
- Has a pre-existing thyroid disease.
Newborn infants (less than 1-month-old) who receive more than one dose of KI (potassium iodide) are at risk for developing a condition known as hypothyroidism (thyroid hormone levels that are too low). If not treated, hypothyroidism can cause brain damage.
- Infants who receive more than a single dose of KI should have their thyroid hormone levels checked and monitored by a doctor.
- Avoid repeat dosing of KI to newborns.
Food and Water
According to The Prepper’s Blueprint, “One of the easiest ways to minimize the effects of radiation is knowing where our food comes from and limiting our exposure to radioactive foods and water sources. Thoroughly wash your produce. Despite arguments to the contrary, you can wash radioactive particles off of produce. Adopting an anti-radiation diet can provide natural alternatives to assist the body in ridding itself of radioactive toxins. Foods such as kelp, rosemary, spirulina, miso soup, and niacin all assist the body in fighting radiation damage. Other foods that may help in combating radiation sickness are foods that naturally detoxify the body. Foods that are high in potassium such as apples, oranges, pineapples, and pomegranates are foods that are also good cancer fighters. Foods that are high in antioxidants will also assist your body in ridding itself of radioactive particles. Foods such as green and black teas (make sure that your tea is not from Japan), garlic, cumin, nettles, dandelions, ginseng, lentils, collards, and mustard greens are also suggested.
As well. any food or water stored in sealed containers that have any fallout dust is safe to consume as long as the fallout dust is brushed or rinsed off the outside of the container. Take caution not to allow the fallout dust to get inside the container.
If you are concerned about your water sources, use filtered water in everything, including brushing your teeth and sponge bathing. Purchase a reverse osmosis water filter with extra filtration cartridges. Remember, it is important to replace your filters after multiple uses. You can read more here.
At least, for the time being, the world is a very uncertain place. Whether we want to accept our new-found reality or not, it’s time to prepare for worst-case scenarios, and understanding the preparedness items that can make your world a little safer is essential. As with any disaster natural or man-made, the time to prepare is before it happens, and keep in mind that complacency can kill you. The disasters strike just when you think they will not, or at a time when everyone is at the dinner table having a grand time. Be prepared with your supplies and in your mind and heart. Keep fighting that good fight, and take care of one another.