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First Aid for Iodine Poisoning

Last updated March 3, 2018

Approved by: Krish Tangella MD, MBA, FCAP

Iodine Poisoning is the accidental or intentional intake of the iodine containing compound. The intake may be through swallowing or inhaling vapors of such compounds.

What is Iodine Poisoning?

  • Iodine (I) is an element that exists as metallic grey solid. It is also a very important mineral nutrient required by the body in traces, which is obtained via dietary intake
  • Iodine and its compounds have various applications including as an industrial catalyst in the production of polymeric compounds, animal feed supplements, pigments, pharmaceutical products, and as a lab chemical
  • Iodine Poisoning is the accidental or intentional intake of the iodine containing compound. The intake may be through swallowing or inhaling vapors of such compounds
  • The condition is diagnosed based upon the clinical history, combination of signs and symptoms, and additional tests (that may include, in some cases, radiological studies and laboratory tests)

Iodine Poisoning is also known as Iodine Toxicity.

What are the Causes of Iodine Poisoning?

  • Iodine Poisoning is caused by the ingestion of iodine compounds or products. The compound may affect the skin or eye, resulting in related symptoms. Inhalation of iodine vapors may also result in toxicity
  • This intake could be accidental, or in some cases intentional, to bring self-harm
  • Iodine is found in chemicals used for photography, inks and coloring agents, in certain organic compounds, cloud seeding, and in radioactive isotopes used for medical tests

Note: The drug can interact with other prescribed or non-prescribed medications in the body. Such interactions may enhance the therapeutic effects of the drug or other medications being taken, resulting in undesired side effects.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Iodine Poisoning?

The signs and symptoms of Iodine Poisoning can vary from one individual to another. It may be mild in some and severe in others. Several systems of the body may be affected.

The signs and symptoms of Iodine Poisoning may include

  • Fever
  • Metallic taste in the mouth
  • Burning sensation and pain in mouth and throat
  • Appetite loss
  • Drooling from the mouth; increased thirst
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea (blood in stool, in some cases)
  • Abdominal pain; irritation of the stomach
  • Skin lesions that resemble acne
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Bluish discoloration of skin on lips and beneath fingernails
  • Breathing difficulties; coughing
  • Breathing-in iodine vapors may result in lung irritation and edema (fluid in the lungs)
  • If the eye is affected, it may result in burning and irritation of the eye. Similarly, if the skin is affected, it can result in chemical burns
  • Urinary difficulties (absence of urine)
  • Low response level
  • Weak pulse
  • Shock
  • Seizures
  • Coma

How is First Aid administered for Iodine Poisoning?

First Aid tips for Iodine Poisoning:

  • Call 911 or your local emergency help number, for emergency assistance
  • Call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 (or your local poison control center) for further instructions
  • Provide them with information such as the compound taken, quantity and time of ingestion, age, weight and general health status of affected individual
  • Carefully remove the individual from the exposure area; move them to region of fresh air immediately
  • Confirm that the airways are protected; also, ensure breathing and the presence of pulse
  • If exposure of the eye has occurred, then wash thoroughly with copious amounts of water Unless instructed by a healthcare professional, DO NOT induce vomiting in the affected individual
  • Take individual to emergency room (ER) for further treatment
  • Always try to take the product bottle/container to the ER

The emergency medical health professional might perform the following steps towards treating the condition:

  • Medically manage symptoms, such as abnormal heart rate and seizures
  • Provide breathing support, if necessary
  • Administer activated charcoal to avoid absorbance of the substance in the body
  • Administer laxatives for elimination of the substance from the body
  • Administer fluids by an intravenous drip line

Who should administer First Aid for Iodine Poisoning?

First aid for Iodine Poisoning is administered by healthcare professionals.

  • The individual who is affected, or someone near, should call 911 for emergency assistance (or the local emergency number)
  • They should also call the poison control center at 1-800-222-1222 (or the local poison control center) and follow instructions

What is the Prognosis of Iodine Poisoning?

  • The prognosis of Iodine Poisoning is dependent on the amount of substance consumed, time between consumption and treatment, severity of the symptoms, as well as general health status of the patient. The prognosis also depends on the underlying health condition of the individual
  • If the individual can recover from the symptoms with appropriate medication and support, the outcome is generally good. 
  • Severe poisoning may lead to complications including narrowing of the food-pipe (esophageal stricture) and long-term thyroid gland related medical issues. Severe toxicity of iodine can result in fatalities

In general, toxicities are common situations in the emergency departments. A majority of the cases are often not fatal, when appropriate treatment is given.

How can Iodine Poisoning be Prevented?

Iodine Poisoning can be prevented by:

  • Always following instructions for usage of any household products
  • Keeping cosmetics, medications, and other healthcare products out of reach of children in child-proof containers
  • Keeping any poisonous/hazardous chemicals and other materials out of children’s reach
  • Keep all poisons correctly labeled and in suitable storage locations
  • Being aware of basic first aid steps in case of an emergency (such as inadvertent poisoning)

What are certain Crucial Steps to be followed?

  • Call 911 (or your local emergency number) for emergency assistance, if symptoms are life-threatening
  • Call Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 (or the local poison control center) and follow the recommend steps
  • It would be helpful if the following information is readily available:
    • Type, amount and time of consumption of the substance
    • Age and weight of the individual
    • And, the overall health status of the individual

What are some Useful Resources for Additional Information?

References and Information Sources used for the Article:

Helpful Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles:

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: Aug. 28, 2017
Last updated: March 3, 2018