What should an IV feel like?
Many ask whether an IV will hurt when going into the vein. When an IV needle is placed, it can cause some slight discomfort. You may feel a small sting or pinch for a few seconds when the needle is inserted in your arm or hand. If you’re particularly sensitive to needles, you may want to ask for a numbing cream, so you don’t feel the needle when it goes in.
After the needle is pulled out and your IV begins, what stays in is a small, narrow plastic tube. The fluids and medications are administered through this tube. Once the tube has been placed, the IV site shouldn’t hurt, sting, or burn.
When the IV procedure is completed, some swelling and bruising at the site are common and not cause for concern. Most IV sites heal quickly in a few days.
What is abnormal IV pain?
As the needle is inserted, if you feel an electric-shock-type sensation radiating down your hand, your IV may have come into contact with a nerve.
Or, you may feel pain if the needle has gone beyond the vein into a muscle or tendon. If an IV hasn’t been inserted correctly, you may feel intense swelling and notice bruising.
This can be a sign of IV infiltration, which occurs when the fluids or medications are going into the tissue under your skin and not into your vein. In all cases, your care provider should stop the infusion and remove the IV line.
When should you alert your medical team about a painful IV?
During the IV procedure, tell your medical team right way if you feel pain at or around your IV site. After the procedure, if you have continued redness and swelling, the IV site may be infected. Infection is a serious complication and needs to be addressed immediately.
Bottom line, IVs shouldn’t be painful or uncomfortable – during or after insertion. If the procedure hurts beyond the initial sting, if your skin feels taut or cool to the touch, if you have a hematoma or bruise, and if you have prolonged edema or swelling afterwards, talk with your medical team right away as this could be a sign of your IV infiltrating. IV infiltrations are a common occurrence, with one in six IVs going bad due to infiltration. The faster you act, the better.
Learn more about how to detect IV infiltrations and the Causes, Signs, Side Effects and Treatments of IV Infiltration and Extravasation.