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From Hydration to Healing: What IVs Are Used For

Traditionally, many of us have associated IVs (intravenous therapy) with a patient in urgent care, lying in a hospital room surrounded by bleak shades of white. Nowadays, IV treatment is taking on a new look. While they still have their uses in traditional medical settings for administering blood or fluids directly to a patient, they’ve also become a ‘glamorous’ way to cure hangovers, improve athletes’ performances, and improve other aspects of health at wellness clinics all around the world.

IVs go beyond their roles as emergency tools and have carved out their own niche in the wellness and recovery sector. After all, with their proven effectiveness, why shouldn’t the benefits of IV therapy be applied to our overall well-being? With 83% of medical patients in the U.S. having received some sort of IV therapy or infusion as of 2019, this figure speaks to their multifaceted capabilities. [1]

What is IV Therapy?

So, how do we define intravenous infusion? The purpose of IV therapy is to deliver a substance, whether nutrients, blood, medicine, or other fluids, through a vein right into the bloodstream. An IV itself consists of a needle, a cannula (a thin tube that goes into the vein), and plastic tubing that attaches to an IV bag. 

IV therapy is often favored over other delivery methods due to its ability to bypass the digestive system and immediately reach the bloodstream. That’s why IV administration is so common in scenarios where a high, consistent, and urgent dose is needed, hence its primary use in hospital settings. [2] While it is considered slightly invasive, the fact that these valuable substances don’t become altered or less effective is a true benefit. Especially for those who struggle with absorption issues, IV therapy ensures that they reap the benefits of the entire dose.

Interestingly, while intravenous infusion therapy is considered a novel concept in the wellness sphere today, the first instance of IV therapy as a wellness remedy happened back in the 1960s. John Myers’ Myers cocktail is an IV solution of vitamins and minerals that doesn’t require a prescription to take, and was marketed as a general wellness solution and hangover cure. [3]

Nowadays, you’ll see what are called hydration bars and drip bars all over major cities and towns. For those looking for an extra dose of nutrition, anti-aging treatments, hydration treatments, and even ways to optimize their athletic performance, they’re the trendy place to get these benefits.

The Different Types of IV Therapy

The Different Types of IV Therapy

IV therapy uses are expansive, and they all exist to provide immediate and efficient results tailored to the patient’s needs. While some solutions simply provide a boost to general well-being, others are more integral in the case of challenging health situations. Let’s take a look at a few common applications that answer the question: “What are IVs used for?”

Hydration Therapy

Arguably, the most common type of IV therapy, if not nutrient therapy, is hydration therapy. While most people stay hydrated and keep their fluid levels up by drinking fluids orally, there are cases when this isn’t enough. IVs can deliver the fluids and electrolytes the body needs, mimicking the existing fluids in the body through a mixture of water and sodium chloride. [4] Perhaps the individual frequently undergoes intense bouts of physical activity or has illness-induced dehydration, or maybe just needs to recover from a night of heavy drinking – either way, this quick delivery method can reduce recovery times and provide relief faster.

Nutrient and Vitamin Infusion

Also known as IV micronutrient therapy or vitamin drip therapy, this type of infusion works to nourish the body by delivering a solution of vitamins and minerals. Whether for improving immunity, a boost in energy levels, better cognitive function, brighter skin, or simply for those who have nutritional deficiencies, certain concoctions can help to deliver on these promises. For instance, vitamin C can help to decrease inflammation in the body, which is especially useful for cancer patients. [5] While the literature on nutrient infusions isn’t overly robust, many medical professionals recommend them for individuals who require highly bioavailable nutrients. [6]

Antibiotic Therapy

While oral antibiotics are the most common prescription for infections or illnesses, medical professionals might recommend antibiotic IV therapy in severe cases. These doses are often higher in concentration and can be delivered much faster, allowing it to keep pace with fast-spreading bacteria in the body. This type of therapy can be used for anything from a skin infection to being used as a preventive measure before surgeries. Especially for antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, IV therapy can be a useful treatment. 

Chronic Pain Management

IV therapy can also be used to help manage chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia, migraine, neuropathic pain, and phantom limb pain by administering pain-relief pharmaceuticals like opioids and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). The combination benefits of instant relief and the customizability of IV therapy can be useful, where frequency, type, and dosage can all be adjusted to the patient’s condition and pain levels. [7]

Conclusion

We live in a world that craves instant outcomes, and things are no different in the medical and wellness sphere. The benefits of IV fluids are wide-reaching and evergreen, and it’s no wonder that its applications have expanded as time has gone on. Both people battling chronic illnesses and those who seek to better their health alike can use IV therapy as a way to improve their quality of life. As the research continues to shape and define intravenous therapy, we’re likely to see much broader appeal and utilization.

Taylor Froiland is the president of Legere Pharmaceuticals in Scottsdale, Arizona and serves on the Board of Directors for RK Logistics Group. He also owns and operates Medmetrics Compounding Pharmacy in Chandler, Arizona, specializing in various pharmaceutical services. Taylor holds a PharmD and has expertise in compounding, medicinal chemistry, and quality control.
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