A small girl getting an IV iron infusion.

Iron Infusion Side Effects and Risks

Iron is a mineral in your body that forms hemoglobin, which is the component that makes it possible for red blood cells to deliver oxygen throughout your body.

Without the right amount of iron in your blood, your body cannot produce enough hemoglobin, and this may cause you to develop a condition known as iron-deficiency anemia.

You can increase your iron levels by eating foods that contain high amounts of iron. Meats that are high in iron are red meat, turkey, fish, and shellfish. Iron-rich vegetables include spinach, legumes, and broccoli.

Even dark chocolate is high in iron. You can also take an iron supplement to increase your iron levels.

However, you may not be able to take iron orally, and you may need to receive it intravenously instead.

Table of Contents

This article will discuss as follows

What is intravenous iron, and how is it given?

Intravenous (IV) iron infusion supplementation delivers iron to your body directly into a vein, usually in the crook of your arm or on the back of your hand. A small needle is used to make an opening in the vein for a flexible plastic tube to be inserted.

Blonde nurse giving IV Iron Infusion to her female patient.

Iron Infusion

Intravenous iron therapy is a convenient and effective method to restore normal iron levels in your body. Our team of medical professionals screens your lab results and determines the sufficient amount of treatments to normalize your iron levels. Our medical team will come to your location in the area and administer the Iron infusion.

One end of the tube is inserted into your vein, and the other end of the tube is connected to a bag that contains the liquid iron supplement and rests on a metal stand next to you. The process of the treatment can take three to four hours or longer, depending on the amount of iron you need. You will likely need several courses of iron IV treatments, which will be given over the span of at least one week but probably over the course of three weeks. The treatments are given slowly in order to reduce the chances of a serious side effect known as iron toxicity.

Another measure your doctor or nurse will take to ensure that you do not suffer any negative side effects is to give you a test dose of intravenous iron before giving you a full dose. If you have any complications related to the test dose, your healthcare provider will not continue with the iron infusions.

Although iron infusions take hours to complete, they are actually the fastest way to increase your iron levels.

This is because the iron goes directly into your bloodstream instead of having to go through your digestive system the way food and oral supplements do. Once the iron is in your bloodstream, it goes to work right away to increase the level of hemoglobin in your red blood cells. Food and oral iron supplements take hours to go through your digestive system before they can be used for their actual purpose, to increase your hemoglobin levels. Therefore, although iron IVs take hours to administer, they start working immediately instead of hours later.

After the infusion is finished, you can go about your usual activities. You will most likely be able to drive yourself home. You can go back to work, as well, if you feel up to it.

man holding his forehead and a cup of water in his hand

Possible Iron Infusion Side Effects

However, iron infusions also come with many risks and side effects of their own.

  • Bloating or swelling in your arms, face, feet, hands, or lower legs.
  • Feel dizzy, faint, or lightheaded if you stand up suddenly after lying or sitting down.
  • Shortness of breath and chest pain, and tightness have also been reported.
  • Gastrointestinal problems such as cramps, nausea, and vomiting.
  • Headaches, joint pain, and muscle pain.
  • Itching and rash.
  • Food and drinks may taste different for a little while after your infusion.
  • The treatment may also cause your blood pressure or heart rate to increase or decrease.

Serious side effects of iron infusion

Many of the side effects associated with getting iron IV infusions are minor, but these treatments can come with serious complications.

Iron toxicity is a rare but serious complication from iron infusions. The symptoms of iron toxicity can suddenly or gradually come on over time. The infusions are done slowly to lower your risk of iron toxicity and anaphylactic shock.

If the symptoms happen rapidly, iron toxicity can cause anaphylactic shock. Anaphylactic shock can make it difficult for you to breathe. You may also feel confused and dizzy, or you may suddenly feel weak. Anaphylactic shock can also cause you to lose consciousness.

If the symptoms of anaphylactic shock begin gradually, your body will accumulate too much iron in your tissues.

What is iron-deficiency anemia?

There are a number of symptoms of iron deficiency anemia that you should look out for. You may look pale and feel tired. You may have trouble breathing. Your body may feel cold or notice that your hands and feet are colder than usual. You can develop infections caused by immune system issues.

This type of anemia can also cause headaches, dizziness, and rapid heartbeat.

Who is at risk for iron deficiency anemia?

Anyone can develop iron-deficiency anemia, but some people have a higher risk than others.

  • Women can develop anemia during their monthly menstrual periods or after giving birth because both of these situations lead to a high amount of blood loss.
  • People over the age of 65 are more likely to develop iron-deficiency anemia because they tend not to get enough iron in their diets.
  • You are more likely to have iron deficiency anemia if you take blood thinners such as aspirin, clopidogrel, warfarin, or heparin.
  • You can become anemic if you have kidney failure – especially if you are on dialysis – because this condition reduces your body’s ability to create red blood cells. Another leading cause of iron deficiency anemia is if you have trouble absorbing iron.
couple having iv infusion in their home

Who needs iron infusions?

There are a number of reasons you may not be able to take iron orally. You will need an iron IV if you have internal bleeding in your GI tract, if you have inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and oral iron makes your IBD symptoms worse, or if you are on kidney dialysis. An iron IV is also necessary if you will be having surgery in the next two months in which you will lose a high amount of blood, if you have celiac disease, or if you have anemia and cancer and you are taking an erythropoietin stimulating agent (ESA).

Iron infusions vs. iron injections

Iron IVs are given over the course of several hours, whereas iron injections deliver a full dose of iron at once. Iron injections also involve a needle, but in this form, the needle is usually inserted into the buttocks, and the iron is injected into a muscle. Iron IVs are usually less painful than iron injections.

Nurse performing an at home vaccination

The injections can also cause your muscles to bleed, and you may notice orange discoloration at the injection site. In order to avoid these potential side effects, doctors usually prefer to use iron IVs rather than iron injections to treat iron-deficiency anemia.

hanging normal Saline IV bag with green plants in the background

Effectiveness of iron infusions

The timeline for when you should start to feel better is different from person to person. It usually takes about a week to a month after your treatment begins for most people to start feeling the benefits of iron IV. Be sure to keep an eye out for the symptoms as you go through your treatments and let your doctor or nurse know immediately if you develop any of the iron drip side effects we have discussed in this article.

How to have an iron infusion safely

Although IV iron has many potential side effects and risks, it can be administered safely.

If you are interested in receiving iron IV treatments, it is essential to undergo these treatments under the supervision and instruction of a physician. You cannot take it upon yourself to decide that iron infusions are the right course of treatment for you and take them according to your understanding of what you need. The treatments are very safe as long as they are administered by a registered and trained nurse. You need to be monitored by someone who knows how to administer these infusions and knows what to look for that can indicate the onset of side effects.

Iron IV infusions may be necessary for you to undergo if you have certain other health conditions, but if you do these treatments while in the care of a doctor or nurse, you can be assured that you will not likely develop any side effects.

At-Home Iron Infusion With Drip Hydration

Iron IV therapy is an efficient and convenient way to increase your iron levels quickly and effectively. With Drip Hydration's at-home treatment option, our team will come to your location to administer the IV, whether that be your home or office. You will be able to relax and carry on with your daily activities, while we take care of the rest.

Contact Drip Hydration today and schedule your appointment, our experienced team is here to help you achieve optimal iron levels and improve your overall health.

Iron IV  Infusion - Frequently Asked Questions

What is Iron infusion?

Iron IV Infusion is a therapy where an enriched saline bag with iron and other vitamins is intravenously administered.

Why would a patient need an iron infusion?

Patients typically need an iron infusion to correct low blood iron levels, although infusions may also be given in advance of a medical procedure. There are many potential reasons a patient might have low blood iron, including illness, certain medical conditions, side effects from other treatments, inability to absorb adequate iron from diet or supplements, and more.

How to prepare for an iron infusion

The most significant preparation required for an iron infusion is to ensure you set aside enough time for treatment. Unlike some procedures, there is no need to fast prior to this procedure.

  • Iron infusions may take 3 or 4 hours, so bring a book, a game, music or podcasts, a computer, or sit near your TV so you can stay occupied during treatment.
  • Eat breakfast, stay hydrated, and take your medication as normal unless otherwise instructed by your doctor.
  • Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing. You may also want to consider having a blanket on hand if you get cold easily.

What happens during an iron infusion?

A nurse will arrive at your location at your appointment time with the necessary equipment for your infusion. They will then administer a test dose via a needle and catheter to ensure that you do not have an allergic reaction to the ingredients in the infusion.

After your test dose, your infusion will begin. This process typically takes several hours. Following your infusion, you can resume activities as normal unless otherwise instructed.

How long does an iron infusion take?

An iron infusion typically takes 3 – 4 hours. Many patients require multiple infusions over time to correct their iron levels. Your doctor will determine the best course of treatment for your needs.

What are the side effects of iron infusions?

There are several potential side effects of iron infusions. They are typically mild and resolve on their own shortly after treatment.

  • Headaches
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Temporary changes in your taste
  • Itchiness and rash
  • Increased or decreased blood pressure
  • Increased or decreased heart rate
  • Redness, swelling, or a burning sensation at the injection site

In addition to these, it is possible to have an allergic reaction to ingredients in the infusion. However, your test dose will help prevent this issue.

Which iron infusion is safest?

The safest iron infusion is administered by a trained and licensed medical professional. Before your treatment, they will administer a test dose to ensure you do not have an allergic reaction to any ingredients in the infusion.

Additionally, safe IV providers will store and handle ingredients and equipment properly to help prevent infections and other complications.

Can you get an iron infusion during pregnancy?

Yes. A doctor may order an iron IV infusion for pregnant women if necessary, typically during the second or third trimester.

What are the risks involved with iron infusion?

Iron infusions are a safe procedure when administered by a licensed and trained healthcare professional. However, iron infusions are a minimally invasive procedure that comes with some potential risks.

Risks of IV treatment in general include:

  • Air embolism
  • Blood clots
  • Vein damage
  • Chance of infection at the injection site

In addition to the risks associated with IV treatments, iron infusions may also cause an allergic reaction due to ingredient(s) in the treatment.

Who administers the therapy?

One of our licensed clinicians will perform the Iron IV Therapy.

How quickly does an iron infusion work?

It depends on the patient’s circumstances. Some people feel better shortly after their first infusion. Those who need multiple infusions to correct low iron levels may start feeling better after a week or more.

How long will an iron infusion last?

The iron infusion itself typically takes about three hours to administer. Following treatment, an infusion may last days, weeks, or months depending on individual circumstances.

Are iron infusions painful?

Iron infusions are a largely painless medical procedure. Patients may experience a brief pinching sensation as the needle is inserted into the vein. Some patients report temporary side effects such as headaches and nausea following treatment.

How many times do I need an iron infusion?

The exact number of infusions will depend on your situation. Your doctor will assess your needs and develop a treatment plan to effectively correct low iron levels.

Do iron infusions make you gain weight?

No, iron infusions do not make you gain weight. One study found that infusions actually caused participants to lose weight.

What is the average cost of an iron infusion?

Iron infusions may cost anywhere between $400 to $4000. The exact cost will depend on variables such as the type of iron used, how many infusions you need, where you get treatment, whether your insurance covers treatments, and other factors.

Is an iron infusion better than a blood transfusion?

Both an iron infusion and blood transfusion aim to restore low iron levels, whether due to a medical condition, severe injury, in preparation for surgery, or other reasons. Both methods are effective ways to restore low iron levels.

  • A blood transfusion delivers new, donated blood into your body
  • An iron infusion contains only iron and saline solution

Your doctor can help determine which is best for your needs.

What iron level requires an iron infusion?

This depends on a variety of factors, such as the type of anemia you have, whether or not you are pregnant, and other factors.

If you notice symptoms of low iron, it’s important to visit a doctor. They will be able to determine whether an iron infusion is right for you.

Can you feel worse after an iron infusion?

There are some minor side effects that can occur during or after an iron infusion, such as headaches, nausea, and muscle aches. However, these are temporary and resolve quickly after treatment, after which you should feel the benefits of normal iron levels.