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Iodine poisoning

Definition

Iodine is a naturally occurring chemical. Small amounts are needed for good health. However, large doses can cause harm. Children are especially sensitive to the effects of iodine.

NOTE: Iodine is found in certain foods. However, there is normally not enough iodine in foods to harm the body. This article focusses on poisoning from exposure to non-food items that contain iodine.

This article is for information only. Do NOT use it to treat or manage an actual poison exposure. If you or someone you are with has an exposure, call your local emergency number (such as 911), or your local poison center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States.

Poisonous Ingredient

Iodine

Where Found

Iodine is found in:

  • Amiodarone (Cordarone)
  • Chemicals (catalysts) for photography and engraving
  • Dyes and inks
  • Lugol's solution
  • Pima syrup
  • Potassium iodide
  • Radioactive iodine used for certain medical tests or the treatment of thyroid disease
  • Tincture of iodine

Iodine is also used during the production of methamphetamine.

Note: This list may not be all inclusive.

Symptoms

Symptoms of iodine poisoning include:

Home Care

Seek immediate medical help. DO NOT make a person throw up unless told to do so by Poison Control or a health care professional.

Give the person milk, or cornstarch or flour mixed with water. Continue to give milk every 15 minutes. DO NOT give these items if the person is having symptoms (such as vomiting, convulsions, or a decreased level of alertness) that make it hard to swallow.

Before Calling Emergency

The following information is helpful to emergency assistance:

  • Person's age, weight, and condition (for example, is the person awake or alert?)
  • Name of the product (ingredients and strengths, if known)
  • Time it was swallowed
  • Amount swallowed

However, DO NOT delay calling for help if this information is not immediately available.

Poison Control

Your local poison center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States. This hotline number will let you talk to experts in poisoning. They will give you further instructions.

This is a free and confidential service. All local poison control centers in the United States use this national number. You should call if you have any questions about poisoning or poison prevention. You can call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

What to Expect at the Emergency Room

The health care provider will measure and monitor the person's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. The person may receive:

  • Activated charcoal
  • Airway support, including oxygen, breathing tube through the mouth (intubation), and breathing machine (ventilator)
  • Blood and urine tests
  • Chest x-ray
  • EKG (electrocardiogram, or heart tracing)
  • Fluids through a vein (intravenous or IV)
  • Laxative
  • Medicines to treat symptoms

Outlook (Prognosis)

How well a person does depends on the amount of iodine swallowed and how quickly treatment was received. The faster a person gets medical help, the better the chance for recovery.

Esophageal stricture (narrowing of the esophagus, the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach) is a possible complication. Long-term effects of iodine overdose include thyroid gland problems.

References

Aronson JK. Iodine-containing medicaments. In: Aronson JK, ed. Meyler's Side Effects of Drugs. 16th ed. Waltham, MA: Elsevier; 2016:298-304.

National Library of Medicine, Toxicology Data Network. Iodine, elemental. Updated November 7, 2006. toxnet.nlm.nih.gov Web site. Accessed February 9, 2017.

Review Date:1/31/2017
Reviewed By:Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997-A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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