Most people could not eat enough iodine loaded foods in one day to cause a toxicity in their body. Most of us only get around 210 to 300 micrograms of iodine a day. Levels a bit higher than this can be handled by the body. Larger amounts could be toxic, especially to children. Children, because of their small bodies, are much more vulnerable to the harmful effects of an iodine overdose.
Some people may need to have radioactive iodine therapy to treat their thyroid problems, other people may take medicines that contain iodine. These treatments may help their conditions, but they may also give the patients an overdose of iodine. Iodine overdoses involve a wide range of nasty symptoms. These could be as mild as a stomach ache all the way to a diagnosis of hyperthyroidism (a condition which produces too much of the thyroid hormones). Hyperthyroidism speeds up the metabolism and results in anxiety, sweating, irritability, weight loss and palpitations.
Identifying your symptoms quickly is important in order to ensure you get the right treatment. Children suffer worse side effects than adults in an iodine overdose. It is vital to get the kids or yourself to the hospital should anyone experience any of the following symptoms:
- Abdominal pain that may range from very mild to severe
- Nausea which often leads to vomiting
- Little or no urine output, even with the feeling that the bladder is full
- Shortness of breath
- Mental confusion
- Excessive feelings of thirst – even though you keep drinking
- Pain in the mouth and throat
- Metallic taste in the mouth (this is a very common symptom in people suffering from an iodine overdose)
People who have diarrhea and are vomiting should seek immediate medical attention as these two conditions can quickly lead to dehydration, which can be fatal if not treated quickly.
If you suspect an iodine overdose in someone you know, immediately call for an ambulance. Stay with them and let the paramedics know all the vital information about the patient: their name, address, age, weight, what their medical conditions are, including what kind of medicines they are taking (especially those medicines with iodine). It is really helpful to the paramedics if you have all the patient’s medications available for them to actually see, and write down accurate information about each one.
If the patient is not vomiting, you can try to get them to drink some milk, or, if milk is not available, mix a bit of flour or cornstarch with water and have them drink that. This will help dilute the iodine in their system. Don’t try to give this liquid to patients who are vomiting, losing mental alertness, or having convulsions.
The emergency room doctors will provide breathing support until the breathing is brought under control. The nurses will keep offering the patient fluids to dilute the iodine. Then they will monitor the blood pressure, pulse rate and body temperatures. In extreme cases, some patients might have to take activated charcoal to help remove toxic contents from their bodies.