By: Heather Michon |

Quick read:

While your medical team will keep an eye on your IV for signs of complications, patients can take a more active role by knowing the IV red flags to look for. If you notice signs of puffiness, tenderness or blanching, you should alert a doctor or nurse right away.

Full story:

Nurses and infusion specialists will monitor you closely during your hospital stay or procedure that involves an intravenous line, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take an active role in monitoring your own IV.

Here are three primary things to look out for when you have an IV:

IV Red Flag 1: Puffiness

Is the area around the catheter starting to look puffy or swollen? This can be a sign that fluids are leaking into the surrounding tissue. Any puffiness or swelling at the insertion point or the limb is a definite IV red flag.

IV Red Flag 2: Tenderness

It’s not uncommon to be a little uncomfortable when you have an IV placed, but it’s time to call a nurse if the area of tenderness and soreness:

  • Increases or spreads
  • The skin around the IV looks taunt or red
  • The skin around the IV feels itchy or like it’s throbbing

IV Red Flag 3: Blanching

Just like redness can be a sign of trouble, so can blanching (becoming white or pale). It can be a sign the blood flow has become obstructed. Similarly, if you notice the skin around the IV feels cool or clammy, alert your care team.

While you don’t need to stare at your IV line throughout your entire treatment, be sure to look periodically and note if there are any changes in its appearance. If you see any of these key signs of infiltration, have someone take a look at it as quickly as possible.

A good way to check is by comparing it to the other extremity that does not have an IV in it. Putting your hands or arms side-by-side will help determine if there is puffiness or blanching.

For tips on how to discuss more IV warning signs with your medical team, download How to Talk to Your Health Professional About Your IV.





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