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I am interested in learning more about potassium iodide tablets. Are they safe to take while breastfeeding?

If there is a terrorist attack or other emergency in the United States involving radiation or radioactive materials such as radioactive iodine, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will play an integral role in the federal response. If the emergency involves release of radioactive iodine, local emergency management officials may recommend that certain populations take potassium iodide tablets (KI) to limit the risk of damage to the thyroid gland. The CDC has produced a Fact Sheet called, "Potassium Iodide (KI)." It explains that KI may be used to help limit the risk of damage to the thyroid gland following exposure to radioactive iodine and tells when KI tablets might be appropriate and what people should consider before making a decision to take KI.

Dosages for various populations, including infants and children are listed in the Potassium Iodide Fact Sheet. It states, "Children are the most susceptible to the dangerous effects of radioactive iodine. The FDA and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend that children from newborn to 18 years of age all take KI unless they have a known allergy to iodide. Women who are breastfeeding should also take KI, according to the FDA and WHO, to protect both themselves and their breast milk. However, breastfeeding infants should still be given the recommended dosage of KI to protect them from any radioactive iodine that they may breathe in or drink in breast milk." In the dosage section of the Fact Sheet, the CDC states that the KI dosage for infants from birth to 1 month of age should be one-eighth of a 130-mg tablet (16 mg). Children between 1 month and 3 years of age should take one-fourth of a 130-mg tablet (32 mg).

The possibility of terrorism of any kind is deeply frightening. Learning as much as possible about protecting yourself and your family in case of such a catastrophic incident is important. Using the information here and from the CDC will help you to prepare yourself. In the event of such an emergency, the CDC recommends that you wait for local emergency management officials to tell people to take KI, because officials will first need to find out what radioactive substances are present.

Note that the Fact Sheet lists medical conditions that make it dangerous to take KI. If you have any concerns about taking KI be sure to consult your local emergency management officials and your health care professionals.

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