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Potassium Iodide for Radiation Emergencies

Young Adults
This includes people 18 through 40 years old. Those in this age group who were contaminated with or were likely exposed to radioactive iodine should take the recommended dose of potassium iodide. When compared to children, young adults are considered less sensitive to radioactive iodine.
Unless there was contamination from a very large dose of radioactive iodine, as determined by the proper officials, adults over 40 years of age should not take potassium iodide. People in this population are the least at risk for developing thyroid cancer or thyroid injury after radioactive iodine contamination. Also, this group has a greater chance of having an allergic response.

Potassium Iodide Dosage

The dose of potassium iodide that is recommended varies, depending on a number of factors, including:
  • Your age
  • Your level of exposure to radioactive iodine
  • Whether you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Currently, three potassium iodide products are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)and are available over-the-counter (OTC). They include:
  • Iosat
  • ThyroSafe™
  • ThyroShield®.
Since they are OTC products, they do not require a prescription. Potassium iodide comes in tablet or liquid form, and is taken by mouth. Tablets come in two strengths: 65 mg (ThyroSafe) and 130 mg (Iosat), and may be cut into smaller pieces. The oral liquid, ThyroShield, comes in a strength of 65 mg per 1 mL.
When appropriate, the recommended dosages are as follows:
  • Adults over 40 years: 130 mg.
  • Young adults 18 through 40 years: 130 mg.
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding: 130 mg.
  • Children between 3 and 18 years: 65 mg. However, children who are adult size (greater than or equal to 150 pounds) should take the full adult dose of 130 mg, regardless of their age.
  • Children 1 month through 3 years (includes nursing and non-nursing infants): 32 mg.
  • Newborns from birth to 1 month (includes nursing and non-nursing infants): 16 mg.
In an emergency situation, it's possible that only potassium iodide tablets (rather than liquid) may be available for children to take. If this is the case, the tablets can be crushed and mixed with liquids, such as milk, orange juice, or flat soda. A mixture of potassium iodide with raspberry syrup best disguises the salty taste. Mixtures with low-fat chocolate milk, orange juice, and flat soda have an acceptable taste.
These products will vary from pharmacy to pharmacy, so be sure to ask your local pharmacist. Also, check your local compounding pharmacies, which may offer a compound of potassium iodide, such as Lugol's solution. However, in these cases, you should check with your healthcare provider first.
Note: Taking a higher dose of KI, or taking KI more often than recommended, does not offer more protection and can cause severe illness, or even death.
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