Potassium iodide is a drug that is recommended for people undergoing radiation treatment; however, in recent days many people have doubts How do potassium iodide tablets work and what are they for?
Its sale has skyrocketed due to fear of a possible nuclear attack due to what happened between Russia and Ukraine.
In recent days, people who work in pharmaceuticals have reported that in some places there is a shortage of potassium iodide pills, a medicine that no one should take if their doctor did not prescribe it.
How do potassium iodide tablets work and what are they for?
The high demand for potassium iodide pills is due precisely to the tension between Russia and Ukraine, which has led many to speculate whether World War III could take place in the coming days, or a nuclear attack could be unleashed.
But, what is potassium iodide for and in what cases is its intake recommended?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), potassium iodide is a non-radioactive salt that can prevent the thyroid gland from absorbing radioactive iodine, that is, it is indicated for patients who are currently undergoing radiation treatment, generally used in cancer cases.
How does potassium iodide work and who should take it?
According to the CDC, KI (potassium iodide) blocks radioactive iodine from entering the thyroid. When a person takes KI, the thyroid absorbs the stable iodine from the drug.
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.
But also, potassium iodide could prevent thyroid cancer that could occur in some type of nuclear accident or accidental exposure to radiation.
However, potassium iodide “does not prevent radioactive iodine from entering the body” and does not reverse effects already caused by radiation, the CDC warns. If radioactive iodine is not present in a person’s body, taking potassium iodide can be harmful.
“People should take KI only on the recommendation of public health or emergency management officials. There are health risks associated with taking KI,” the CDC states on its website.
This is because such pills have limited effectiveness. In an interview with CNN, Diane D’Arrigo, of the Nuclear Resources and Information Service in Washington, indicated that although it protects the thyroid, “there are other radionuclides that go to other organs with which it does not help.”
That is why health specialists ask not to panic buy these pills, since there are also many people allergic to iodine and this could be counterproductive.
Protection may not be complete, they warn, as it depends on factors such as the time that has passed since contamination, how much iodine has been absorbed into the blood, and the dose of radioactive iodine to which the person has been exposed.
In the event of a radiation emergency involving radioactive iodine, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of potassium iodide in two forms: tablets and liquid. There are specific dosages for age groups and other conditions.
Potassium iodide is sold without a prescription, so health authorities reiterate that it should only be taken if there is an instruction from health or emergency agencies. Side effects of iodine pills include gastrointestinal problems, allergic reactions, rashes, and swollen saliva glands.