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A salon on the Upper East Side of New York that offers IV drip therapies. Photo: Jennifer A. Kingson/Axios

IV drips — the kind you might get if you're rushed to the hospital — are trending as a spa treatment, thanks in part to endorsements by celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Madonna.

Why it matters: Like other "wellness" trends with a whiff of medical imprimatur, IV nutrient drips can be harmless or mildly restorative — or go awry, particularly in the wrong hands.

  • The promise is that customized cocktails of fluids and vitamins can boost immunity, cure jet lag, ease allergies, restore energy, relax you or help you lose weight.
  • The danger is that the treatments — which aren't approved by the FDA — can be administered by unqualified people in settings like shopping malls that aren't equipped for medical emergencies.

Doctors aren't too concerned but scoff at the promises and price tags, saying clients are just paying for rapid hydration that bypasses the stomach.

  • "The most important thing they're getting is water with salt, which you could get from a sports drink," says Dr. Sam Torbati, co-chair of emergency medicine at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles.

What's happening: IV drip spas have opened across the country — not just in trendsetting cities like New York and Los Angeles, but also in suburbia and middle America.

  • The centers are supervised by doctors, and the drips — which take about 30 minutes — are administered by people with various medical credentials.
  • Gyms and beauty salons are getting into the act, adding intravenous infusions to the menu alongside fruit smoothies and reflexology.
  • Mobile IV services, which come to your home, are also gaining steam. A company called Drip Hydration, for example, will send nurses to your residence, office or hotel room to administer $299 bags of fluid-and-electrolyte cocktails with names like "dehydration," "energy boost" and "hangover."

What they're saying: "IV therapy greatly benefits athletes, patients with compromised GI and immune systems as well as patients with low energy and excess stress," according to Atlas Health Medical Group of Gilbert, Arizona, which is run by two naturopathic physicians.

  • The practice says the benefits of its treatments include increased energy, hydration, better athletic performance, detoxification and improved mood.

The other side: "These treatments are mostly harmless and really just result in people making expensive urine," says Torbati.

  • "If you've been sick or out drinking, you're dehydrated — so hydrating will make you feel better."

The back story: Intravenous vitamin therapy is widely traced to a Baltimore doctor named John A. Myers, who, before his death in 1984, administered infusions that became known as "Myers' cocktail."

  • This is now considered a "classic" IV drip, though specific formulations vary. One on the menu at Youth Haus in West Hollywood, California, contains IV fluid, vitamin C, magnesium and 6 B vitamins, and costs $149.

Caveat emptor: Reports of IV drips gone wrong are sporadic but worrisome.

  • "Risks associated with the infusion in general include blood clots, and vein irritation and inflammation, which could be painful," said Debra Sullivan, a nurse educator who participated in an assessment of spa IV drips on healthline.com, a medical information site.
  • "Air embolisms can also be introduced through an IV line, which could cause a stroke."

Editor's note: This story was originally published on Dec. 1.

Go deeper

Dec 3, 2021 - Podcasts

Trump’s "Remain in Mexico" policy is back

The Biden administration has reached a deal with Mexico to restart the Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” program, also known as the Migrant Protection Protocol at the border. Starting Monday, asylum seekers will once again have to wait outside the U.S. while their claims are processed.

  • Plus, Mike Allen wraps up the week in politics.
  • And, the new trend of IV treatments at spas.

Guests: Axios' Stef Kight, Mike Allen and Jennifer Kingson.

Credits: Axios Today is produced in partnership with Pushkin Industries. The team includes Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Julia Redpath, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Alex Sugiura, Sabeena Singhani, David Toledo and Jayk Cherry. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at podcasts@axios.com. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

Go Deeper:

Scoop: Stephanie Ruhle to replace Brian Williams on MSNBC

Photo: Nathan Congleton/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

MSNBC will soon announce plans to move morning anchor Stephanie Ruhle to the 11 pm ET hour that Brian Williams turned into an elite destination, two sources familiar with the move tell Axios.

Details: The 9 am ET hour, currently hosted by Ruhle, will become part of MSNBC's flagship morning show, "Morning Joe," which currently runs from 6 am to 9 am ET.

Oath Keepers leader denied bail on Capitol riot sedition charge

Oath Keepers co-founder Elmer Stewart Rhodes. Photo: Susan Walsh/AP

A federal judge ordered Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes to remain jailed Wednesday until trial on charges stemming from the Capitol riot.

Why it matters: The judge said the most prominent far-right figure charged in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection had access to weapons and his alleged "continued advocacy for violence against the federal government" gave credence to prosecutors' view that, if released, Rhodes could endanger others.

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