Patients at hospitals are often put on IV drips. This liquid treatment (also known as intravenous therapy IV) involves the delivering of liquid substances directly into a vein.
However, many people often experience swelling from IV fluids and aren't sure why.
A DoctorxDentist reader who was recently discharged from the hospital realised that her hands, arms, feet and thighs had all noticeably swollen up after being put on IV drips.
IV fluids play a vital role in maintaining hydration
For the most part, intravenous fluids help with the management of a patient's bodily fluids. 
This is especially necessary when patients are:
- Dehydrated or aren't drinking well
- Losing bodily fluids rapidly, e.g. through vomiting, diarrhoea, high fever or other medical problems
- Unable to drink because they are fasting for a surgery
In some cases, doctors can only administer certain medicines intravenously.
In many instances, they are lifesavers
Intravenous fluids can really improve a patient's condition. The treatment can, in fact, even save lives when it comes to severe bleeding, shock or burn cases.
However, there are side effects
Like any other treatment, IV fluids can have side effects. This is particularly so if your body receives more than it needs.
Sometimes, IV fluids can cause an overload of both water and salts in your body, resulting in:
- Swelling of the legs and other parts of the body
- An increase in blood pressure
- The flooding of the lungs with water, making them feel breathless
In more serious cases, it might trigger an episode of lung failure or heart failure. 
The risks of IV fluids are always present
Dr Francisco explains that even with the most cautious and judicious application of intravenous fluids, complications can still occur. This is because the administered fluids and salts do not distribute evenly in the body, or to where the doctor intends it to go.
Besides, estimating the exact amount of fluid your body need is difficult, even though all doctors definitely do their best.
Lastly, different patients will handle the administered fluids and salts differently and will eliminate them at different speeds and fashions.
Your kidneys play a big role in managing the fluids
Your kidneys are responsible for eliminating the excess of water and salts. Depending on your kidney strength, the administered fluids and salts have varied effects.
Patients with kidney issues are prone to imbalance
If you suffer from medical problems affecting the kidneys, or other related organs like the heart and liver, do take note. You are more susceptible to severe fluid retention or salt imbalances.
Elderly or very young patients need to take extra precautions
Elderly patients, young children, or people with a weakened kidney function will need more careful intravenous fluid administration. 
Their organs may not be as strong (or as functional) as patients from other age groups.
Specific medicine groups could affect fluid levels
In some cases, even certain types of medicine can affect the way the body eliminates excess fluids.
This is why it's important to consult your doctor about the types of medication you're allowed to consume directly before or after IV fluid treatment. 
Various factors determine the speed of recovery
The length of recovery and severity of the swelling of a patient's body are determined by many factors, which means that it's hard to give an accurate answer.
Dr Francisco mentioned that factors include the condition of the patient, the amount and types of fluids given and the ability of the kidneys to eliminate excess fluid.
Ultimately, swelling from IV fluids could last anywhere between a few hours to a few days.
However, some patients may have difficulty eliminating excess fluids and may need water tablets (diuretics) to pass more urine and stabilise their water levels.
Some patients with kidney issues may even require dialysis. It's important that you consult your doctor for a full evaluation and necessary precautions.
Article medically reviewed by Dr Francisco Salcido-Ochoa.
1. E.A. Hoste. et al. Four phases of intravenous fluid therapy: a conceptual model. British Journal of Anaesthesia. Nov 2014. Accessed January 2019.
2. Andrew K Hilton. et al. Avoiding common problems associated with intravenous fluid therapy. Med J Aust. Nov 2008. Accessed January 2019.
3. Peter Crean. et al. IV Fluids in Children: Intravenous Fluid Therapy in Children and Young People in Hospital. National Clinical Guideline Centre. Dec 2015. Accessed January 2019.
4. Maria-Eleni Roumelioti. et al. Fluid balance concepts in medicine: Principles and practice. World J Nephrol. Jan 2018. Accessed January 2019.