IV hydration has grown in popularity over the past five years, with offerings for mobile IV hydration and even IV hydration at home in many parts of the country. Once associated with hospitals, IV hydration has been adopted by celebrities and alternative health advocates. In the medical setting, IV rehydration is preferred over oral rehydration when patients are unable to keep fluids down due to nausea or are in dire condition. This is because intravenous fluids are able to act more quickly in the body, increasing plasma volume in the bloodstream almost immediately, where oral fluids must pass through the gut and be absorbed before increasing plasma volume1 . Interestingly, IV hydration clinics advertise their therapies as treating a number of conditions that would not necessitate a visit to the hospital.
- Jet lag
- Chronic fatigue
- The common cold
- Fitness recovery
- Immune support
IV treatments for these conditions often include vitamins in addition to water and sodium chloride which are the typical components of medical IVs. One clinic we found advertises IV infusion of Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide (NAD+), a compound that is thought to reverse aging.
It’s certainly a compelling proposition, but do they work? There is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest they do, but many in the medical community are skeptical. Dr. Shmerling of Harvard makes the point that many of the conditions that IV treatment is purported to fix are not related to dehydration and cannot be improved with fluids. Further, there is even some research that is beginning to raise questions about the difference in efficacy between oral and intravenous methods in athletes and other less severe situations2 . Finally, there is also a slight risk of infection associated with inserting an IV3 .
IV Hydration Therapy Alternatives
If an individual is capable of drinking fluids, there is probably an easier and cheaper solution for dehydration — even the medical community has non-IV options. A product called “Oral Rehydration Therapy” was developed to treat dehydration caused by diarrhea, oftentimes triggered by cholera. This product is now widely available and can be deployed in circumstances where an IV is not nearby such as in developing countries.
A visit to an IV clinic can range between $200- $400 depending on the location and makeup of the fluids. At that price, it’s no surprise that the heaviest concentration of these clinics is in places that are known for extravagant spending like Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
For mild to moderate dehydration that results from travel or exercise, there are many other options available. For the price of an IV visit, you can nearly buy a year’s supply of our favorite hydration mixes, and maybe even a nice water bottle to go with them! Our top-rated hydration mixes are reviewed here. If you are in a hurry, some of our favorites are LiquidIV and Nuun. Don’t worry, celebrities have endorsed these mixes as well.
1 Casa, Douglas J.; Ganio, Matthew S.; Lopez, Rebecca M.; McDermott, Brendon P.; Armstrong, Lawrence E.; Maresh, Carl M. Intravenous versus Oral Rehydration: Physiological, Performance, and Legal Considerations, Current Sports Medicine Reports: July-August 2008 – Volume 7 – Issue 4 – p S41-S49 doi: 10.1249/JSR.0b013e31817f3e85
2Intravenous versus Oral Rehydration: Physiological, Performance, and Legal Considerations, Current Sports Medicine Reports: July-August 2008
3Shmerling, Robert H. “Drip Bar: Should You Get an IV on Demand?” Harvard Health Blog, 11 Nov. 2020, www.health.harvard.edu/blog/drip-bar-should-you-get-an-iv-on-demand-2018092814899.