Potassium iodide against radiation: how it works, whether it really protects and when to drink it

Yulia LoseynkoSociety
Potassium iodide will protect the body from radioactive iodine if taken correctly

While Ukrainians are joking about an orgy on Shchekavitsa in the event of a nuclear strike on Kyiv, the world is urging us not to take the threat of nuclear weapons being used against our country lightly. The likelihood of such a scenario is assessed differently, but everyone agrees that it would be useful to repeat the recommendations on radiation safety.

In particular, to study the advice of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine on the use of potassium iodide. This drug helps reduce the effect of radioactive iodine on the thyroid gland. It blocks the organ's ability to accumulate iodine from the environment. This means that radioactive iodine isotope does not enter the body and, in particular, does not lead to internal exposure in the future and other related problems.

What is potassium iodide?

Potassium iodide is a chemical compound that contains two trace elements: potassium and iodine. As a medicine for iodine prophylaxis, it is available in tablet form. It is taken exclusively for emergency protection against radioactive isotopes of iodine and only after a special warning. It is not necessary to take it in advance, as it can only cause harm.

Let us repeat once again: the task of the product is to block the absorption of radioactive iodine by the thyroid gland, which can be released during a nuclear explosion or an accident at a nuclear facility. Important: Potassium iodide has no effect on other organs and systems of the body.

When and how to take

A prophylactic dose of potassium iodide should be taken only after official notification by the state authorities of radiation contamination. In those regions where there is a need, it is distributed free of charge. The distribution points will be announced along with the notification.

The Ministry of Health emphasises that the optimal effect of iodine prophylaxis is observed in the case of a single premature intake of the drug 6 hours or less before the arrival of the radioactive cloud. Also, the use of potassium iodide will be effective if the drug is taken simultaneously with the cloud and within 6 hours afterwards. If 24 hours or more have passed since then, taking a prophylactic dose will no longer be effective. Moreover, it can be harmful.

Does potassium iodide protect against radiation after a nuclear explosion?

The principle of potassium iodide action is based on temporary blocking of the thyroid gland function. The organ, one of the tasks of which is to accumulate iodine, stops receiving this trace element from the environment, and therefore, its radioactive isotopes do not enter the gland. The prophylactic dose does not have any significant effect on the general state of health.

However, an ordinary pill cannot provide complete protection against radiation. In addition to taking it, it is also necessary to follow all instructions in the event of a nuclear incident - go to a shelter, close windows and doors tightly and avoid ventilation, pack food in closed

Dosage and contraindications

The prophylactic dose of potassium iodide in the event of a nuclear accident is calculated taking into account the age of the person:

  • children under 1 month (infants and breastfed children) - 16 mg;
  • children from 1 month to 3 years - 32 mg;
  • children from 3 to 12 years - 62.5 mg;
  • adolescents from 13 to 18 years old, adults under 40 years old, pregnant and breastfeeding women - 125 mg.

Important: people over 40 years of age should not take this drug. After reaching this age, the thyroid gland hardly accumulates radioactive iodine, and therefore, taking the drug becomes harmful. The only exception is women aged 40+ who are pregnant or breastfeeding. During pregnancy and breastfeeding, their thyroid gland becomes more active and therefore needs protection with potassium iodide.

Potassium iodide should also not be taken by those who have had this organ completely removed. If it is partially removed, you should consult a doctor.

Other contraindications are allergies to the components of the drug, thyroid diseases and dermatological diseases. If possible, you should consult your doctor about these issues in advance.


Where to buy in Ukraine

Potassium iodide is available in pharmacies and can be bought without a prescription. But, again, the Ministry of Health notes that its independent intake for prevention purposes is not justified. This can lead to a decrease in thyroid function and problems in the future.

Doctors also warn that it is important to pay attention to the dosage indicated on the package when buying the drug. It can be indicated in milligrams (mg) and micrograms (mcg). Micrograms are a thousand times smaller than milligrams, in which the dosage is given in the table above.

Why ordinary iodine solution is ineffective

The use of an alcohol solution of iodine or Lugol's solution is ineffective and will only cause harm, according to the Ministry of Health. The reason is that these drugs are not absorbed by the body and therefore cannot protect against radioactive iodine. Neither ingestion nor application of the so-called iodine mesh to the skin will help. In addition, ingestion of an alcohol solution can lead to chemical burns of the mouth or oesophagus and other damage. Potassium iodide should be taken in tablet form in the event of a nuclear incident.

Food supplements and medicines containing small doses of potassium iodide and used to prevent iodine deficiency will also be ineffective. The active ingredient in them is hundreds of times less than the required amount, so you will have to eat the pills literally by the handful. In addition, it will be difficult to calculate the right dose.

What to do for those who took potassium iodide for prevention

Those who have started taking the full dose (125 mg) in advance should stop doing so immediately to avoid harming their thyroid gland.

If you have been taking potassium iodide in a much lower dose, for example, with food supplements, this fact can be ignored. In this case, you should follow the general instructions for taking the drug prophylactically.

As OBOZREVATEL previously reported, the expert analysed the situation in detail and gave a forecast of Russia's possible use of nuclear weapons. As well as the consequences of such an incident, if it occurs.

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