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Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Potassium Iodide has been around and in use as a medicine since the 1820s. It is so common that it is listed on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines, a list of the safest and most effective medicines needed. As a common medicine, it is available over the counter without a prescription.
While used for a number of different things, our interest in potassium iodide, as preppers, is in helping us to survive a nuclear event. While it is not a “cure all” for all radiation-caused illness, it can help prevent radiation sickness of a very specific type; that of radioactive iodine being absorbed by the thyroid glands and infecting them. Such illness can prove to be fatal, just like other versions of radiation sickness can.
Radiation sickness is the name given to damage caused to the body by absorbing large doses of radiation, such as those that might be absorbed after a nuclear accident. Being killed by a nuclear explosion isn’t radiation sickness; but those people living on the outskirts of the area affected by the blast could absorb enough radiation to develop radiation sickness. However, most cases of radiation sickness are caused by industrial accidents, such as the 1986 accident at the nuclear power plant in Chernobyl, Ukraine.
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While radiation can attack any part of the body, we’re specifically interested in a potential attack on the thyroid glands. This only happens when radioactive iodine is released. Iodine of any sort can be readily absorbed by the thyroid, regardless of whether it is radioactive or not.
Potassium iodide can be used as a preventative measure in cases where the nuclear accident has released radioactive iodine; but it is useless in other radioactive incidents. The radioactive iodine in question would have been released into the air, either by the accident or by fallout. It would then be brought into the body by breathing it in, much like breathing in a virus. Once there, the radioactive iodine would be carried through the bloodstream until it arrived at the thyroid, where it would be absorbed just as any other iodine would be.
What potassium iodide does is to essentially fill up the thyroid glands with all the iodine they can absorb so that they cannot absorb any more. That way, any radioactive iodine that is brought into the body will not be absorbed and will ultimately be expelled from the body through normal waste-removal functions.
Using Potassium Iodide
The problem for us, as preppers, is that potassium iodide really shouldn’t be used if it isn’t needed as it can cause a number of serious side-effects. Those side-effects include gastro-intestinal irritation, inflammation of the salivary glands, rashes and other allergic reactions. Those allergic reactions can include fever, joint pain, swelling, trouble breathing, wheezing or shortness of breath, and difficulty speaking.
So how do we know when to take it? Detection of radioactive iodine in the air requires special equipment which is not available to the public. Therefore, we have to wait for our local health department to tell us that it is necessary. That goes against the grain for us as preppers since we prefer to depend on ourselves rather than the government. But this looks like it has to be the exception to that rule.
When taken, potassium iodide only stays in the system for 24 hours. Therefore, it needs to be taken daily, preferably at the same time every day, from the time that it is declared necessary until that declaration is lifted. In many cases, it will only be necessary to take it for one day.
While the government stockpiles potassium iodide for this sort of emergency, it’s a good idea to have our own, as I seriously doubt that the government has enough for everybody. Having seen how difficult it has been to vaccinate everyone with the COVID-19 vaccine, government distribution is going to be a problem. It’s doubtful that they will be able to get it out to everyone in one day, even if they have enough in stock.
Potassium iodide (KI) comes in 130mg tablets, 65mg tablets, and an oral solution that contains 65mg/ml. It can be taken by people of all ages, and should especially be given to children who are more susceptible to radiation sickness from radioactive iodine.
Use this dosage chart to determine how much potassium iodide to take:
|Age of Individual||KI Dose||No. of 130mg KI tablets||No. of 65mg KI tablets||Oral solution 2|
|Adults over 18 years||130 mg||1||2||2ml|
|Pregnant or lactating women||130mg||1||2||2ml|
|Adolescents 12 – 18 years1||130mg||1||2||2ml|
|Children 3 – 12 years||65mg||½||1||1ml|
|Children 1 mo – 3 yrs||32mg||Do not use||½||0.5ml|
|Infants to 1 mo||16mg||Do not use||Do not use||0.25ml|
1Adolescents approaching adult size and weighing more than 150 lbs. should receive the full adult dosage.
2The oral solution comes with a dropper that is graduated for 0.25, 0.5, and 1ml doses.
Taking more than the recommended dose does not provide any additional benefit, even for overweight people. The thyroid gland is not larger in overweight people. Extra care should be taken in giving potassium iodine to newborns.
Unlike others, additional doses should not be given every day, unless their thyroid hormone levels are regularly checked by competent medical authority as too much potassium iodide can cause a condition known as hypothyroidism (thyroid hormone levels being too low). Likewise, pregnant or lactating women should only take one dose.
Potassium iodide has no curative effects, it is purely preventative. Giving it to someone who is displaying symptoms of radiation sickness will not reverse their disease, although it can protect them from receiving more radioactive iodine in their thyroid, with the possibility of at least slowing the advance of the disease.
What About a Governmental Breakdown?
The bigger risk for any of us comes in situations where the government is not able to determine the level of radioactive iodine in the air and make a determination of whether or not potassium iodide should be taken. Without that data, we’re stuck making a decision based upon our own conscience and beliefs. But we must understand that we’d be making that decision blind.
The question boils down to which would be worse, taking the potassium iodide and dealing with any side-effects or not taking it and risking radiation sickness caused by radioactive iodine. I know where I would fall on this decision, but you’ll have to decide for yourself. Waiting until symptoms of radiation sickness occur is too long, as the potassium iodide won’t help at that point.
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