Potassium iodide is actually a form of salt which is added to regular table salt in order to protect you against goiter – a thyroid gland swelling, in most cases caused by iodine deficiency. Recent researches revealed that iodized salt turned out to be also effective in preventing mental retardation along with brain damage. In our nuclear age, it has particularly gained usefulness, because it can protect you against radiation poisoning.
Despite the fact that iodine is of primary importance to thyroid health, as well as brain development, unfortunately human body can’t produce it internally. This means that good sources of dietary iodine are very important, while lack of iodine is close to catastrophic.
Currently about 40% of the world’s population is at risk for iodine deficiency, but luckily enough, the problem is less common in the US, because over 90% of population receive sufficient amounts. However, if you think that your diet is lacking iodine, use iodized salt and consume such foods as dairy products, eggs and shellfish, because they are also rich in iodine. In case you experience some other health problems removing salt as an option, you may choose to eat other iodine-rich foods.
In addition, in case of a nuclear or radiological event, contamination may happen as radioactive iodine created by nuclear processes. You can inhale the latter from the air or ingest it in contaminated food or water. Radioactive iodine can be absorbed by the thyroid gland very fast. Here potassium iodide fights against such process and is known as a “stable” salt of iodine, which means that it lacks any radioactive properties, while being quickly absorbed by the thyroid. In other words, if you take potassium iodide properly and in time, it can essentially prevent radioactive iodine from accessing the thyroid and damage it with radiation. Although this protection is neither complete nor permanent, it can still be life-saving in an emergency.
The Centers for Disease Control and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission have developed some guidelines for correct use of potassium iodide. First of all, table salt can’t provide enough radiation protection, since it contains just trace amounts of the salt. Meanwhile, concentrated doses of potassium iodide are needed for satisfactory result. Fortunately, it is available over the counter at nearly any pharmacy, but it is not recommended that you take it as a regular preventive measure. The matter is that it’s only effective for short periods of time, which means that taking it regularly or in high doses can be dangerous for your health. When a serious event happens, emergency preparedness officials will announce that you should use potassium iodide. But unless it happens, please leave your supply stored away.
You should also understand that even these temporary advantages of potassium iodide will only protect thyroid gland, but not the rest of your body. Nor it is able to reverse thyroid damage after it has already occurred. If an emergency occurred, you should make sure to follow all instructions properly in order to safeguard your health.
Finally, not everyone should take potassium iodide, because some conditions make its use unsuitable – for example, iodine allergies and a number of skin disorders. In addition, recommended dosages are different for those who can tolerate the concentrated salt. You are highly recommended to consult your physician or local emergency preparedness agency for detailed guidelines.
Read more about Potassium Iodide.