Iodine deficiency is rare, but some people supplement their diets with iodine drops for a variety of health reasons, and this practice can be dangerous. Iodine, a trace mineral, is necessary for making thyroid hormones, healthy thyroid gland function, and for healthy growth and development. Between 70 and 80 percent of iodine is located in the thyroid gland in your neck, while the rest is found elsewhere in your body such as your blood, muscles and ovaries.
Iodized salt, which is commonly used in cooking in the United States, is the reason iodine deficiency is rare. However, a deficiency in this mineral can occur in older children, pregnant women and women in general compared to men. A lack of iodine in the body leads to hypothyroidism, which can then lead to symptoms such as an enlarged thyroid gland, fatigue, dry skin, weight gain and sensitivity to temperature changes.
Types of Iodine Drops
Iodine drops come from sources such as seaweed kelp, a sea plant that absorbs iodine from water. Kelp contains very high levels of iodine -- about 45 to 57,000 mcg -- reports Leslie Beck, a registered dietitian and author of “The Complete A-Z Nutrition Encyclopedia.” Another type of iodine is potassium iodide drop. Potassium iodide is a salt of stable iodine available in an oral solution as well as liquid and pill form. It can treat conditions such as an overactive thyroid gland, exposure of the thyroid gland to radiation or certain types of skin conditions caused by fungus.
Dangers of Iodine Drops
Using iodine drops or other supplements to increase iodine levels can be hazardous to your health, as too much iodine disrupts thyroid gland function. Also, large quantities of iodine over a prolonged period of time can lead to symptoms such as a metallic taste in your mouth, headaches, eye irritation, sore teeth and gums, and a burning sensation in your mouth. Other symptoms include irregular heartbeat, numbness or weakness in your hands and feet, and unusual fatigue.
Iodine drops should be taken under a doctor’s supervision, as the recommended dose varies depending on the condition you’re trying to treat. In general, to treat an overactive thyroid gland, adults can take 250 mg of iodine oral solution three times daily, according to MayoClinic.com. Children’s doses should be determined by a doctor. To treat radiation exposure, adults may be prescribed 2 ml of potassium iodide solution, while children between ages 3 and 18 can take 1 ml, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, potassium iodide should be taken only under direction from a state or local public health official.
Amount of Dietary Iodine Needed
For general health, it’s safer to get your daily dose of iodine from food. Aside from iodized salt, food sources of iodine include garlic, lima beans, sesame seeds and green leafy vegetables such as spinach and Swiss chard. The upper daily limit of iodine for children ages 1 to 3 is 200 mcg of iodine; for children ages 4 to 8, it’s 300 mcg, according to Beck. For children ages 9 to 13, the upper daily limit is 600 mcg and for children ages 14 to 18 it’s 900 mcg. Adults 19 and over can have a maximum of 1,100 mcg daily.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Iodine
- Linus Pauling Institute: Iodine
- “The Complete A-Z Nutrition Encyclopedia”; Leslie Beck, R.D.; 2010
- MayoClinic.com: Potassium Iodide (Oral Route)
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Potassium Iodide (KI)