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Healing approaches mentioned in this blog are for educational purposes only. Suggested supplements, etc. should not be used as replacements for conventional medical treatment without guidance from a licensed and trained medical professional.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Treatment options for nuclear radiation exposure

Last Friday was a scary day here on the North Oregon coast.  First we heard about the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, then we had tsunami warnings of our own and evacuation to higher ground.  The evacuation went smoothly and our coast didn’t take much damage.  Stretch and Didi did not like leaving in the car, but it would have been worse if they had been put in back packs and walked to higher ground!
The magnitude 9 earthquake has caused damage to five of Japan’s nuclear reactors.
Reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant began leaking radiation over the weekend, and thousands of people had to be evacuated from their homes. Some 23 people are currently being treated for radiation exposure, which can lead to acute radiation syndrome – or radiation poisoning. The amount of radiation they were exposed to should not be lethal.
Radiation poisoning can occur either when the body is suddenly exposed to high levels of toxic radiation or when it is exposed to lower levels for prolonged periods of time.
Early symptoms of radiation poisoning include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, which can start within minutes to days of exposure and last for days.  More serious symptoms  of loss of appetite, fatigue, fever, seizures and coma may last for hours or months.
The condition is treated with potassium iodide, the standard treatment for nuclear radiation. If the right dose is taken at the right time it can prevent the radioactive iodine from being absorbed by the thyroid.  
The FDA has approved two different forms of KI—tablets and liquid—that people can take by mouth after a nuclear radiation emergency. Tablets come in two strengths, 130 milligram (mg) and 65 mg. The tablets are scored so they may be cut into smaller pieces for lower doses. Each milliliter (mL) of the oral liquid solution contains 65 mg of KI.

According to the FDA, the following doses are appropriate to take after internal contamination with (or likely internal contamination with) radioactive iodine:

  • Adults should take 130 mg (one 130 mg tablet OR two 65 mg tablets OR two mL of solution).
  • Women who are breastfeeding should take the adult dose of 130 mg.
  • Children between 3 and 18 years of age should take 65 mg (one 65 mg tablet OR 1 mL of solution). Children who are adult size (greater than or equal to 150 pounds) should take the full adult dose, regardless of their age.
  • Infants and children between 1 month and 3 years of age should take 32 mg (½ of a 65 mg tablet OR ½ mL of solution). This dose is for both nursing and non-nursing infants and children.
  • Newborns from birth to 1 month of age should be given 16 mg (¼ of a 65 mg tablet or ¼ mL of solution). This dose is for both nursing and non-nursing newborn infants

Most of this information comes from CDC’s fact sheet on potassium iodide.  See their website for more information.

It is worth noting that potassium iodide only protects the thyroid from exposure and not other parts of the body that radiation can affect, such as the cells lining the intestines and stomach, and in the bone marrow. Moreover, potassium iodide cannot undo damage that has already been done to the thyroid. This is why it is vital to receive treatment as quickly as possible following exposure.  The 130 mg adult dose lasts for 24 hours and should only be taken once unless health officials in your area tell you to continue.
Other natural treatments:  Milk thistle to help protect the liver and  reishi and shitake mushrooms to help protect your immune system may help your body cope with radiation exposure. I don’t really know the mushroom dosage, but milk thistle, 200 mg twice or three times per day will help protect your liver.

The worst case scenario, according to Yahoo News, is that nuclear fallout from damaged Japanese nuclear plants will be limited to Japan.  We should not have to worry about taking potassium iodide on the Oregon coast at this time.  If a larger release of radioactive materials happens, we should have plenty of time to take the protective iodine.

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