How Potassium Iodide Works
Certain forms of iodine help your thyroid gland work right. Most people get the iodine they need from foods like iodized salt or fish. The thyroid can “store” or hold only a certain amount of iodine.
In a radiation emergency, radioactive iodine may be released in the air. This material may be breathed or swallowed. It may enter the thyroid gland and damage it. The damage would probably not show itself for years. Children are most likely to have thyroid damage.
If you take potassium iodide, it will fill up your thyroid gland. This reduces the chance that harmful radioactive iodine will enter the thyroid gland.
Who Should Not Take Potassium Iodide
The only people who should not take potassium iodide are people who know they are allergic to iodide. You may take potassium iodide even if you are taking medicines for a thyroid problem (for example, a thyroid hormone or antithyroid drug). Pregnant and nursing women and babies and children may also take this drug.
How And When To Take Potassium Iodide
Potassium iodide should be taken as soon as possible after public health officials tell you. You should take one dose every 24 hours. More will not help you because the thyroid can “hold” only limited amounts of iodine. Larger doses will increase the risk of side effects. You will probably be told not to take the drug for more than 10 days.
Usually side effects of potassium iodide happen when people take higher doses for a long time. You should be careful not to take more than the recommended dose or take it for longer than you are told. Side effects are unlikely because of the low dose and the short time you will be taking the drug.
Possible side effects include skin rashes, swelling of the salivary glands, and “iodism” (metallic taste, burning mouth and throat, sore teeth and gums, symptoms of a head cold, and sometimes stomach upset and diarrhea).
A few people have an allergic reaction with more serious symptoms. These could be fever and joint pains, or swelling of parts of the face or body and at times severe shortness of breath requiring immediate medical attention.
Taking iodide may rarely cause overactivity of the thyroid gland, underactivity of the thyroid gland, or enlargement of the thyroid gland (goiter).
What To Do If Side Effects Occur
If the side effects are severe or if you have an allergic reaction, stop taking potassium iodide. Then, if possible, call a doctor or public health authority for instructions.
IOSAT Tablets (Potassium Iodide Tablets, U.S.P.): packages of 14 tablets (NDC51803-001-01): Each white, round, scored tablet contains 130 mg. potassium iodide.