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Radioactive Iodine

Posts: 1
Joined: Sep 2012

Hi, Iam new to this site.

I am due to have Radioactive Iodine treatment and have been told that I am to be kept in isolation from my family afterwards. Can I ask how people got home from the hospital after their treatment? And can I go outside afterwards too away from other people? What happens to my bed linen etc?

Luv Barbie

Posts: 582
Joined: Oct 2010

Hi Barbie,

Wow, it amazes me how doctors still aren't informing patients of all the precautions before doing RAI. So, here are the basics:

Foreword: I-131 (RAI) has a half life. This means that twenty-four hours after you ingest, it will be half the strength it was when you took it. After that it becomes half of a half and so on and so forth.

1. Keep at least a ten foot radius from other people for at least seven days. For the first three days it is better to stay away completely. After the third day I watched a movie with my husband and daughter from about twelve feet away from them in a plastic covered recliner. I threw away the plastic afterward. You will get to the part about the RAI trash on #4.

2. I did go outside but kept my distance from other people. I walked around the neighborhood while others were at work and school.

3. Drive yourself home from the treatment. If you must have a ride, sit in the backseat as far away from the driver as possible. Do not stop to use a public restroom. Make sure you use the restroom right before you are given the dose and go straight home afterward.

4. I used paper/plastic utensils to eat with and threw them in a trash bag in my isolation room. After seven days I tied up the bag and threw it in the outside garbage. It sat there for another three days before it went to the street for pick up.

5. Flush your toilet two to three times after each use. If you have an older toilet, flush three times.

6. After seven days wash all the clothes you wore and your bedsheets twice and then do a vacant cycle in your washer to rinse all of the residual RAI before others use the washer.

7. Thoroughly wipe down anything and everything in your isolation room that you touched. Especially the bathroom (toilet, sink and shower) as this is where the RAI elimination will be most concentrated. Your sheets will also soak up sweat and saliva so they must be washed twice before anyone sleeps with you after the seven day period. Some people use a plastic mattress pad under the sheets while they are radioactive. I did not, but I washed my mattress pad with my sheets and I did not sweat much.

8. I used Ziploc bags to put over my TV remote control. After the seven days of isolation I threw it in my RAI trash bag.

9. I used plastic gloves (latex) whenever I went into the common areas of my house, especially the kitchen to get something to eat. After returning to my isolation room I removed the gloves and washed any sweat off of my hands. Gloves went into my RAI trash bag as well.

10. Keep plenty of Low-Iodine foods pre-made and ready to heat up or grab quickly so you can minimize your time in the common areas of your home. You will only need to stay of the Low Iodine diet for the first three days. After the third day, go ahead and indulge. I ordered Pizza! Also keep lots of candies that make you salivate close by. The goal is to keep salivating in order to minimize damage to the salivary glands. I don't have any damage at all. I sucked on Jolly Ranchers because they are my favorite. Many people will tell you to use sour candies. While that might be okay for those who like them, I don't. The goal is to salivate. Anything that makes you do that is just fine.

I hope they have given you the details on the Low Iodine diet before your treatment. I wish you the best in your treatment and recovery. Please keep me posted and let me know how you are doing. Don't hesitate to post if you have any other questions. You can also send a personal email. I have been through RAI twice. Remember that nothing is ever as bad (or as good) as you think it's going to be. I really enjoyed my days of isolation because I rarely get alone time. It was a welcome little vacation for me.


Posts: 1
Joined: Sep 2012

Hi Julie
I am Michelle,43,marrried mother of 6,and have just had two surgeries to remove my cancerous thyroid.I had three different cancers,3.5 cm follicular carcinoma ,oncocytic,grossly encapsulated,minimally invasive with no vascular invasion,2 mm papillary carcinoma,solid variant,and a 1.2 mm follicular variant of papillary carcinoma.

I am scheduled for a WBS,on Oct 10,luckily I am using thyrogen ,so I don't have to go hypo.However my endo initially said I would only be getting 50 mcI of RAI,but now says she would like to use 75 mcI.I was freaking out over the 50,so 75 really freaks me out.

Its hard to get good info from people who have gone through this,and I have so many questions about this treatment.I do know that I have to do it.Truth be told I was ok with it,I was more afraid of being thyroidless,which isnt as bad as I imagined,at least not yet anyway lol.I just want to beat this and get back to being me,a wife and mom.

I thank you for any input,my biggest concern is permanent salivary damage,and dental problems.I actually went and got some jolly ranchers. regards,Michelle

Baldy's picture
Posts: 243
Joined: Mar 2011

Hi Barbie,

The doctors administering the RAI should give you a list of specific instructions when they give you the RAI. I agree with Julie, they should tell you ahead of time so that you can prepare {I seem to remember mine did}. When is your RAI scheduled?

Depending on your situation, young children at home etc, you may want to be more cautious than they are telling you to be or if you live alone, less cautious.

A little biophysics ... The half life of Iodine 131 is 8.04 days, BUT, this doesn't really matter since 99% of the Iodine 131 will leave your body in your urine within 48 hours(*). This is why they tell men who get RAI to urinate sitting down for the first few days, no splashing, and also why everyone is told to flush twice for the same amount of time. The 1% that reamins in your body is almost completely taken up by any thyroid cells that may still be there following surgery, {this assumes you had thyroid surgery and aren't receiving the RAI to treat Graves or Hyperthyroidism.} This is also why they tell you to drink as much water as you can for the first few days in order to flush the 99% out as quickly as possible. When I did my RAI, I would drink a full glass of water every time I had to urinate, I must have had to go 20 times a day or more for those days.


* My endocrinologist talked about a "medical half life" by which he meant the amount of time a substance would remain in a person's body. For Iodine 131, he said the medical half life was around 24 hours, which is what Julie has already told us :) But this doesn't work like an atomic half life since the other half is almost completely gone in the next 24 hours.

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