Sterile water solutions containing small amounts of salt or sugar, are injected into the body through a tube attached to a needle which is inserted into a vein.
Fever, vomiting, and diarrhea can cause a person to become dehydrated fairly quickly. Infants and children are especially vulnerable to dehydration. Patients can become dehydrated due to an illness, surgery, or accident. Athletes who have overexerted themselves may also require rehydration with IV fluids. An IV for rehydration can be used for several hours to several days, and is generally used if a patient cannot drink fluids.
Patients receiving IV therapy need to be monitored to ensure that the IV solutions are providing the correct amounts of fluids and minerals needed. People with kidney and heart disease are at increased risk for overhydration, so they must be carefully monitored when receiving IV therapy.
Basic IV solutions are sterile water with small amounts of sodium (salt) or dextrose (sugar) supplied in bottles or thick plastic bags that can hang on a stand mounted next to the patient's bed. Additional minerals like potassium and calcium, vitamins, or drugs can be added to the IV solution by injecting them into the bottle or bag with a needle.
Intravenous — Into a vein; a needle is inserted into a vein in the back of the hand, inside the elbow, or some other location on the body. Fluids, nutrients, and drugs can be injected.
A doctor orders the IV solution and any additional nutrients or drugs to be added to it. The doctor also specifies the rate at which the IV will be infused. The IV solutions are prepared under the supervision of a doctor, pharmacist, or nurse, using sanitary techniques that prevent bacterial contamination. Just like a prescription, the IV is clearly labeled to show its contents and the amounts of any additives. The skin around the area where the needle is inserted is cleaned and disinfected. Once the needle is in place, it will be taped to the skin to prevent it from dislodging.
Patients need to take fluids by mouth before an IV solution is discontinued. After the IV needle is removed, the site should be inspected for any signs of bleeding or infection.
There is a small risk of infection at the injection site. It is possible that the IV solution may not provide all of the nutrients needed, leading to a deficiency or an imbalance. If the needle becomes dislodged, it is possible that the solution may flow into tissues around the injection site rather than into the vein.
Martinez-Bianchi, Viviana, Michelle Rejman-Peterson, and Mark A. Graber. "Pediatrics: Vomiting, Diarrhea, and Dehydration." Family Practice Handbook. University of Iowa. http://www.vh.org/Providers/ClinRef/FPHandbook/Chapter10/17-10.html.
Toth, Peter P. "Gastoenterology: Acute Diarrhea." Family Practice Handbook. University of Iowa. http://www.vh.org/Providers/ClinRef/FPHandbook/Chapter04/01-4.html.
Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.