By Heather Michon |

Quick read:

It can be hard to tell what your IV is supposed to feel like, especially if you haven’t received one before. After your IV has been placed, you shouldn’t feel much of anything at all. Pain or redness around your IV site is a sign something is wrong.

Full story:

Many patients feel anxiety about receiving intravenous therapy, especially the first time around.

If you’ve never had an IV before, it’s natural to wonder what it’s going to feel like – or what proper IV insertion should look like. Once the IV is inserted, it’s equally natural to wonder what it’s supposed to feel like? How do you know if your IV is properly inserted?

Once the initial prick of the needle is behind you, you shouldn’t feel any more pain. You may feel some pulling from the dressing over the IV or from the tape on the tubing, but other than that you shouldn’t feel much at all.

A properly inserted cannula, the flexible tubing left in the vein, should be virtually unnoticeable. Pain around your IV site is a sign that something has gone wrong, and the earlier it’s caught, the faster it can be treated.

To prevent the risk of infection, you should avoid touching the IV insertion site, but you can tell a lot about proper IV insertion just by looking.

Proper IV Insertion Checks:

Is the sterile gauze and tape around the insertion site clean and dry?

Any sort of leakage, loose tape or dirty bandaging should be brought to a nurse’s attention as soon as possible.

Are there kinks or twists in the tubing?

There should be a free flow of fluids through the tubing with no air bubbles. Learn more about air embolisms and how to prevent them here.

Is the skin around the insertion site puffy, red, or white?

These are signs that the cannula may have come loose or pushed through the vein wall, allowing fluids to leak into surrounding tissue.

Does the area feel warm, cold, or strange?

Like puffiness or redness, this can be an early sign that the placement of the cannula has shifted.

These are some of the same things nurses will look for as they assess your infusion set throughout the treatment. But an extra set of eyes for proper IV insertion can’t hurt, and you should never be afraid to speak up if you feel something in your IV has gone wrong.







Image Source: How to Assess a Peripheral Intravenous IV Cannula ––iv–cannula

Ray-Barreul, Gillian. “How to Assess a Peripheral Intravenous (IV) Cannula.” AVATAR Group: Making Vascular Access Complications History, 5 Apr. 2017,–iv–cannula.

Glynda Rees Doyle and Jodie Anita McCutcheon. “Clinical Procedures for Safer Patient Care.” IV Fluids, IV Tubing, and Assessment of an IV System | Clinical Procedures for Safer Patient Care,

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