Iodine tablets : recommendations for citizens and pharmacists

date: 21/03/2022

Over the past few weeks, more than three hundred thousand citizens have obtained iodine tablets from their pharmacies as a result of the conflict in Ukraine. The FAMHP has listed a few recommendations.

Getting iodine tablets remains a good reflex in the event of a nuclear incident. Taking stable iodine is an efficient way of protecting the thyroid gland, alongside other protective measures. Iodine tablets are only meant to be taken when the government recommends this in case of a nuclear incident with a nuclear power station on Belgian territory or close to our borders where radioactive iodine is emitted. Especially in children, protecting the thyroid gland against contamination by radioactive iodine is important to prevent the risk of thyroid cancer in the long term. 

You still have iodine tablets in your home 
Potassium iodide is a very stable substance that remains effective for years. The tablets distributed since 2011 do not have an expiry date, only a production date. These tablets remain usable for at least 10 to 15 years after the production date. In addition, the government monitors the effectiveness of the tablets. In 2021, Sciensano conducted a thorough analysis of these tablets. These tests show that the tablets have a shelf life of at least 28 May 2022. The shelf life is tested every year.

An important condition is that the tablets have been stored properly. The tablets must be stored in their original packaging, at room temperature (between 15° and 25°), in a dry place, protected from light, in a place known to everyone and out of reach of small children. If you notice any changes (yellowing, crystallisation, etc.) or if you have any doubts about the quality of the tablets, ask your pharmacist for advice.

You want to get iodine tablets from the pharmacy 
Iodine tablets are available free of charge in any pharmacy in Belgium. So, to get them, there is no point in buying them online. Today, there are still packings available in pharmacies. Those who do not yet have a box of tablets can collect them. 

Go with your identity card to your trusted pharmacy. The pharmacist will provide a free box of tablets for every four family members. Together with the iodine tablets, you will receive an information leaflet.

For places in Belgium where children gather for a longer period of time, such as schools and crèches, it is recommended to keep iodine tablets in stock.

Store the iodine tablets in their original packaging, at room temperature (between 15° and 25°), in a dry place, protected from light, in a place known to everyone and out of reach of small children.

When should you take iodine tablets?
Iodine tablets only work if you take them at the right time. Never take iodine tablets on your own initiative. Wait for the government's recommendations. Iodine intake must be accompanied by sheltering. Depending on your age, you may need to take a different dose. Consult the information leaflet for this. Iodine tablets should in principle be used only once, so only on the day that it is recommended.

Never use this medicine for purposes other than a nuclear incident.

The situation in Ukraine
The situation in Ukraine is being closely monitored by the Belgian and European authorities and in particular by the Federal Agency for Nuclear Control (FANC). For the moment, this situation does not constitute a danger for the Belgian population. Therefore, iodine tablets are not necessary in this situation.
Especially since the possible release of radioactive iodine does not concern plants that are no longer active, such as the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

Recommendations for pharmacists
The stocks of potassium iodide tablets that you still have available from previous campaigns may be delivered to the citizen who requests them.

Before supplying a packing (one packing per four family members), check whether a packing has already been supplied and registered in the name of one of the family members. Provide an information leaflet.

For additional packings, please contact your usual wholesaler-distributor who will be able to provide you with the required number.

More information for the pharmacist. 

Last updated on 22/03/2022