Last month Russian President Vladimir Putin raised anxieties around the world with his decision to move Moscow’s deterrent forces – including nuclear weapons – to “special alert”. The announcement prompted panic buying of iodine tablets, particularly in former Soviet nations, to protect against the effects of radiation.
What are iodine tablets?
Iodine is considered a way of protecting the body against conditions such as thyroid cancer in case of radioactive exposure.
Though they offer protection against radiation they should never be taken before you seek advice from a medical professional.
Iodine can be taken orally either as a syrup or in tablet form.
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In 2011, Japanese authorities recommended that people around the site of the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant take iodine.
Supplement providers in the UK sell iodine in 150mg tablets, with many having faced high demand from consumers in recent weeks.
To date, most of the interest has come from countries that share borders near Russia and Ukraine – where war has been raging for more than a month now.
For example, at the start of last month, Bulgarian health authorities said residents had bought as much iodine in less than a week than they would normally across an entire year.
As a result, this blocks radioactive iodine from entering the gland and can help protect it from injury.
One iodine tablet should be good for some 24 hours of limited protection.
However, iodine tablets only offer protection against a single radiation type and work solely on the thyroid gland.
In fact, they won’t prevent damage from other, potentially more dangerous, radionuclides cast into the air during a nuclear event.
Taking iodine tablets when there is no need to can also result in a bunch of unpleasant side effects, including damage to the heart and kidneys.