Guidelines for Patients Receiving Radioiodine Treatment

The thyroid gland accumulates the iodine entering your body in food and uses this iodine to perform its normal functions, which is to make thyroid hormone. The thyroid processes radioiodine in a similar manner. The radiation given off by this form of iodine decreases the function of the thyroid cells and inhibits their ability to grow, which is the desired medical effect. However, some of the radioiodine will leave your body, and individuals who are in close physical contact with you may be exposed to small amounts. There is no evidence that such exposure has caused harm, but efforts should be made to avoid unnecessary exposure to radiation.

You can reduce radiation exposure to others by using the following guidelines (usually two to five days after your treatment). However, your doctor can recommend which guidelines you should follow and will give you specific instructions as to how long you should follow these precautions. Be sure to discuss your questions and concerns with your doctor.

There are three basic principles to remember to reduce radiation exposure to others:

  • Distance.The greater the distance you are from others, the less radiation they will receive. Guidelines are sleep alone for the first few days after your treatment. During this period, avoid kissing or sexual intercourse. Also avoid prolonged physical contact, particularly with children and pregnant women. If you have a baby, be sure to get instructions from your doctor. You can probably do all things necessary to care for your baby, except breastfeeding (see below), but it is preferable not to have the baby too close, such as sitting in your lap, for more than a short time during the first two days after treatment.
  • Time. Radiation exposure to others depends on how long you remain in close contact to them. Guidelines are tried to minimize the time spent in close contact with others. Drink plenty of fluids, such as water or juices, to help you urinate more frequently. This will help the radioiodine to leave your body more quickly, thus lowering the amount in your body.
  • Hygiene Good hygiene lessens the possibility of contaminating others. Guidelines are wash your hands with soap and plenty of water each time you go to the toilet. Keep the toilet very clean. Also, flush the toilet to or three times after each use. Rinse the bathroom sink and tub thoroughly after using them to reduce the chance of exposing others to the radioiodine in your saliva and sweat. Use separate (or disposable) eating utensils for the first few days and wash them separately to reduce the chance of contaminating other family members with radioiodine in your saliva.

Other guidelines to consider:

  • If you are pregnant, or think you are, tell your doctor because radioiodine should not be given during pregnancy. If you are planning to become pregnant, ask your doctor how long should wait after the treatment.
  • If you have been breastfeeding your baby, you must stop because radioiodine is secreted in breast milk. Talk to your doctor to find out when you can resume breastfeeding.

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