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Radioactive Iodine: What to Expect at Home

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Radioactive iodine is absorbed and concentrated by the thyroid gland. You get it in liquid or pill form. The radiation will pass out of your body through your urine within days. Until that time, you will give off radiation in your sweat, your saliva, your urine, and anything else that comes out of your body. It is important to avoid exposing other people to the radioactivity from your body.

Your doctor will give you more written instructions. Follow these carefully. The instructions will tell you how far to stay away from people and how long you need to follow precautions. They will list other ways to keep other people safe. They will also tell you when it will be safe to go out, go to work, and do other activities.

How can you care for yourself at home?

General recommendations

  • For a period of time, you will need to keep your distance from other people, especially young children and pregnant women.
  • Avoid close contact, kissing, and sexual activity. You may need to sleep in a separate bed from your partner.
  • Keep the toilet very clean. Men should urinate sitting down to avoid splashing. Flush the toilet 2 or 3 times after each use. Wash your hands well with soap and lots of water each time you use the toilet.
  • Rinse the washroom sink and tub well after you use them.
  • Use separate towels, face cloths, and sheets. Wash these and your personal clothing by themselves. Don't wash them with other people's laundry.
  • You may want to use a special plastic trash bag for all your trash, such as bandages, paper or plastic dishes, menstrual pads, tissues, or paper towels. Talk to your treatment facility to see if they will handle the disposal. Or after 80 days, this bag can be thrown out with your other trash.
  • Wash your dishes in a dishwasher or by hand. If you use disposable dishes, they must be thrown away in the special plastic trash bag.
  • Don't cook for other people. If you must cook, use plastic gloves. Then throw them away in the special plastic trash bag. Don't share cups, dishes, or utensils.

Pregnancy and children

  • Your doctor will tell you when it is safe to have sex and become pregnant.
  • You should not breastfeed your baby after you have been treated with radioactive iodine. Ask your doctor when it's safe to breastfeed.


  • Don't take public transportation. If you are able, it's best to drive yourself.
  • It is important to prepare for any problems you may have at airport security. People who have had radioactive iodine treatment can set off the radiation detection machines in airports for a week to 10 days. Check with local authorities about any steps or permission you may need to travel.
  • If you plan to travel by car, you may set off radiation detectors. Most police and transportation workers are aware of medical radiation, but it may help to carry some paperwork from your doctor.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

When should you call for help?

Watch closely for any changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • You have a sore throat.
  • You vomit.
  • You have diarrhea.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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