There is a lot of buzz the radiation pill and the nuclear disaster in Japan following the tsunami.
There are also a lot of questions about the radiation pill and what it does. There is an alternative we will discuss here.
What is the pill?
Does it work?
What other options are there?
First, radioactive fallout is not likely to pose an immediate threat unless you are within 10-20 miles (15-30 Kilometers) of the source of the fallout.
The next area of risk is the area covered by the radioactive cloud. This could be thousands of miles. The farther away, the less the risk.
If your are close to a future incident, the standard of care is potassium iodide (KI) pills.
Note: It is not the only protection. There are a number of other ways to protect yourself. In the 3 Mile Island incident, the pills did not arrive until 6 days after the incident.
The main source of radioactivity is radioiodine (radioactive iodine 131). Radioiodine is the major component of both nuclear explosions as well as nuclear power plant disasters.
Note: Radioactive iodine is most likely will not be a component of a dirty bomb.
It is of special concern because it is easily taken up in our thyroid glands if we breathe or ingest it. The more radioiodine our thyroid takes in the higher the risk of cancer within a few years of the exposure.
The KI pill only blocks the thyroid from the uptake of radioiodine, the radio active form of iodine. This is the most prevalent form of radioactive material usually released into the atmosphere in a nuclear accident.
You are only at risk if you breathe or ingest radioiodine. The KI pill floods the thyroid preventing the radioactive form of iodine from being taken up into the thyroid and allowing it to be excreted.
Taking the iodine before exposure blocks the thyroid from getting any radio active iodine, which is then excreted from the body.
Note: Potassium Iodine (KI) Pills are not the only source of this kind of iodine. In addition to KI pills, there are alos KIO3 which have a longer shelf life and do not have the bad taste noted with KI pills.
Skin Absorption of Tincture of Iodine painted on the skin can also be effective. It involved painting 8 ml of a 2 percent tincture of Iodine on the abdomen or forearms. This has to be done approximately 2 hours prior to I-131 contamination.
Do not drink iodine or iodine solutions. They are poisonous. You will get sick.
Potassium iodide pills are only effective for radioactive iodine and the thyroid. They do not provide general radioactive protection.
Taken within 2 hours of exposure provides 75 percent effectiveness. There is some concern that unless perfectly timed, this protective action may be counterproductive.
The optimal time to take it is 2 hours before exposure and within 8 hours of exposure.
The study noted that taking it up to 96 hours prior to exposure had no effect. This is because the iodine only lasts in the system for about 24 hours.
For dosing follow the package insert. The dose is specific to the exposure. The younger the age, the greater the risk. Dosing is also based on expected exposure measured in Gray or Gy.For exposure greater than 5 Gy
Birth to 1 month 16 mg
1 month -3 years 32 mg3 years through 18 years 65 mg
Adolescents weighing more than 150 lbs are encouraged to take adult dose.For Exposures greater than 10 Gy
18 years through 40 yrs. - 130 mgExposures greater than 500 Gy:
Adults over 40 yrs - 130 mg.
Since the KI pill lasts for about 24 hours, it will usually be taken once every 24 hours until the exposure risk ends. Pregnant women and neonates should only take under a doctors supervision.
Is potassium iodide or KI contraindicated or is the dosing restricted?
Do not take more than indicated. Taking more can cause your body to become allergic. Taking more will not provide any more protection.
If you have an allergy or sensitivity to iodine you should avoid KI pills.
Derdermatitis herpetiformis and hypocomplementemic vasculitis, although rare, are risk factors for being sensitive to iodine.
Multinodular goiter, Graves disease and autoimmune thyroiditis should only take under a doctors supervision.
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