Drugs Home > Potassium Iodide for Radiation Emergencies

In cases of radiation emergencies, you may be instructed to take potassium iodide in order to protect your thyroid. Taking this product after radiation exposure can help block your thyroid's absorption of radioactive iodine for 24 hours. The amount you need to take will depend on many factors, such as your age and level of exposure. If necessary, a repeat dose may be recommended.

What Is Potassium Iodide?

Potassium iodide, also known as KI, is a form of iodine that is not radioactive. Our body uses stable forms of iodine -- including potassium iodine -- to make thyroid hormones. While most of the supply of this important chemical comes from our diet, it is also available as a medication.
The most common use of potassium iodide is to treat problems with the thyroid. However, in times when it is necessary, potassium iodide is used for radiation exposure.
When used for this purpose, nonradioactive iodide, such as potassium iodide, can protect the thyroid from radioactive iodine. This can help prevent thyroid injury and thyroid cancer. When administered in the recommended dose, potassium iodide is effective in reducing the risk of thyroid cancer in those exposed to radioactive iodine.

What Is Radioactive Iodine?

Radioactive iodine can be released into the air after a nuclear or radiologic incident, which can cause people to be concerned about radiation exposure. Radiation exposure can result in radioactive materials, such as radioactive iodine, getting into your body by breathing it into your lungs or by eating or drinking contaminated substances. When this occurs, the thyroid gland absorbs the radioactive iodine, which can then damage the thyroid gland, putting you at risk for thyroid cancer.
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Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
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