IV fluids are specially formulated liquids that are injected into a vein to prevent or treat dehydration. They are used in people of all ages who are sick, injured, dehydrated from exercise or heat, or undergoing surgery. Intravenous rehydration is a simple, safe and common procedure with a low risk of complications.
IV fluids are liquids injected into a person’s veins through an IV (intravenous) tube. They prevent or treat dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.
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Water is essential to every cell in our bodies. In fact, our bodies are made up of about 60% water. When you don’t have enough water in your body, that’s called dehydration. A person needs IV fluids when they become dangerously dehydrated.
Serious dehydration may occur when you:
When you are dehydrated, it can affect:
Signs of severe dehydration include:
There are different kinds of IV fluids. Your healthcare provider will decide which type is right for you, depending on why you need them.
Crystalloid solutions: These are the most common types of IV fluid. They contain small dissolved molecules that pass easily from the bloodstream into tissues and cells. Examples include normal saline, which is salt in water, and D5W, which is dextrose (sugar) in water. Another example is lactated Ringer’s, which contains sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium and lactate. It’s used for aggressive fluid replacement.
Colloids: These are large molecules that can’t easily pass through cell membranes and are more likely to stay in the blood vessels. Examples include albumin and hetastarch.
If you need IV fluids, a healthcare provider will:
The IV also may be used to deliver medications or nutrition.
IV fluids can make you feel better very quickly. But your healthcare providers will determine when you can stop receiving intravenous fluids.
IV rehydration is a common, simple and safe procedure that can make you feel better quickly and help save your life if you are seriously ill.
But rare complications can occur, including:
Many people don’t need recovery time or have any restrictions after receiving IV fluids.
However, you may need other treatments or additional rest depending on the reason you needed rehydration in the first place. For example, if you had vomiting or diarrhea due to infection, you might need to take medicines afterward. If you had surgery, you might have certain restrictions while you heal.
Ask your healthcare provider about your recovery and restrictions.
Tell your healthcare provider if the IV fluids seem to be flowing too slowly or too quickly.
Also, tell the physician or nurse if you have any discomfort at the IV site, a loose IV needle, headache or trouble breathing.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
IV fluids are specially formulated liquids that are injected into a vein to prevent or treat dehydration. Intravenous rehydration is a simple and safe procedure used in people who are sick, injured, dehydrated from exercise or heat, or undergoing surgery.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/03/2021.
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