Use of Potassium Iodide

Written by heather lindsay
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Potassium iodide (KI) is a simple salt and can be used as a food additive to provide the body with necessary iodine. It can also be used for treatment of the thyroid to promote normal function, in case of a radioactive emergency, as an expectorant, to treat some skin conditions, and as a home remedy to treat a variety of other ailments.

Food Additive

Iodine is a rare element that is required by all animals for proper thyroid function. The thyroid uses iodine in the production of the hormones triiodothyronine and thyroxine, which regulate growth and development. It is rarely available in nature, so many countries have added it to salt or flour to make it readily available in the diet.

Radioactive Emergency

Potassium iodide was shown to be an effective blocker of thyroid radioiodine uptake by the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl. The thyroid absorbs the first available iodine from the bloodstream, regardless of whether it is radioactive. When non-radioactive iodine is provided first, in sufficient amounts for the thyroid's daily required dose, it will not absorb any additional iodine. It should be given within three to four hours of exposure and an adult requires 130 mg as the recommended daily dose. In the event of an emergency, local health authorities should instruct the public whether to use it. Potassium iodide will only protect the thyroid, and is not useful for protection against any other forms of radiation.


Potassium iodide is found in cough medicines and is available in a drop form to help treat chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD). It thins the mucus in the lungs, which helps make coughs more productive, easing chest congestion. Extended use of potassium iodide requires monitoring of the thyroid by a physician as it could cause complications.

Skin Conditions

Potassium iodide can be used as a topical treatment for some skin conditions as it works against infection and as an antibacterial and anti-fungal agent. Sporotrichosis lesions on the skin can be treated with a saturated solution of potassium iodide (SSKI) taken orally. Consult a dermatologist for specific recommendations for treatment.

Home Remedies

A saturated solution of potassium iodide (SSKI) can be considered as a home remedy for treatment of a variety of other problems ranging from bladder infection to fibrocystic breast disease, ovarian cysts and sebaceous cysts. This use to combat cysts could be due to iodine's ability to make fats more water soluble. Infected hangnails and bacterial and fungal infections of the toenails can be treated with SSKI. Taken with water in certain amounts before airline travel it may help prevent infection from breathing recycled air, and has also been used to treat drinking water in areas where water quality is uncertain. Depending on the length of time the treatment with SSKI is given for any condition, a doctor may need to monitor thyroid function to make sure it is not being compromised. As with any home remedy it is always best to consult with your doctor about any of these possible treatments.

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