A small girl getting an IV iron infusion.

Iron Infusion Side Effects and Risks

Iron is essential for producing hemoglobin, which carries oxygen in the blood.1 Iron-deficiency anemia can be treated with iron-rich foods, supplements, or intravenous infusions. IV iron is a direct and fast method to increase iron levels, but it carries risks like iron toxicity and anaphylactic shock. Common side effects include pain, swelling, flu-like symptoms, and fatigue. Rare but serious side effects like allergic reactions and low blood pressure can occur. It’s important to follow precautions and consult healthcare providers for safe administration.

Get an 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.

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.

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.

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.

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

Common Side Effects of Iron Infusion

Iron infusions are a common treatment for iron deficiency anemia, but they can sometimes cause a few side effects. These side effects are usually on the mild side and resolve on their own quickly.

It’s quite typical to experience localized pain, redness, and swelling in the area where the infusion needle and catheter were inserted. This can be understood as your body’s natural response, somewhat like it’s saying, “What’s happening here?”

However, there’s no need for undue concern, as this discomfort and swelling are temporary. Over the course of a few days, you should observe a noticeable improvement in these symptoms. If the pain and redness do not go away or worsen, the area may be infected. It’s important to contact your doctor if your symptoms do not improve.

Another potential side effect of an iron infusion is flu-like symptoms, including aches and a mild fever. Maintaining a realistic perspective is essential; while these symptoms can be somewhat uncomfortable, they typically do not warrant excessive concern.

You should prioritize maintaining adequate hydration, allowing your body the necessary rest, and considering the use of over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen. These medications can help relieve your symptoms and improve your overall comfort during this period.

Headaches may occur either during or after an iron infusion. They can persist for a variable duration, which could range from several hours to a few days. It is important to note that while the exact cause of these headaches remains somewhat elusive, they are a common side effect.

To help overcome your headache faster, seek out a serene and dimly lit environment where you can rest comfortably. Applying a cold or warm compress to your forehead may provide relief. If you feel inclined, over-the-counter pain relievers can be considered; however, it is imperative to adhere closely to the guidance provided by your healthcare provider.

Should these headaches persist or escalate to a point where they significantly disrupt your well-being, do not hesitate to promptly reach out to your doctor. They possess the requisite expertise to navigate through such situations, with your comfort and health as their utmost priority. When in doubt, do not hesitate to seek their counsel.

Fatigue is another potential side effect of an iron infusion. This sensation can be likened to a temporary dip in your energy reserves, leading to a general feeling of tiredness.

Notably, this fatigue can manifest in diverse ways from one individual to another. Some may experience mild tiredness that lasts for a few days, while others might contend with a more prolonged and substantial fatigue. This variance is perfectly normal.

Listen attentively to your body and elevate self-care to a paramount position. This entails allocating ample time for rest and focusing on obtaining restorative, quality sleep. Maintaining a well-rounded diet and ensuring proper hydration are essential strategies to combat fatigue effectively during this period.

Less Common but Serious Side Effects

While most side effects following an iron infusion are typically transitory and mild, a few rare yet substantially impactful ones demand special attention.

In the event that you should encounter any of these infrequent but consequential side effects, it is imperative to promptly contact your healthcare provider. Your well-being is your most precious asset and should always be your utmost priority.

Iron infusions are typically preceded by a test dose to determine if you have an allergy to any of the ingredients in the treatment. Your nurse will monitor this test dose and intervene if you start to experience any allergic reactions, such as hives, itching, noticeable swelling, or encounter respiratory distress characterized by chest tightness or breathlessness.

Another uncommon side effect is the development of low blood pressure, medically referred to as hypotension, following an iron infusion. Certain individuals may encounter a reduction in blood pressure either during or subsequent to the infusion process. This can be accompanied by symptoms such as dizziness, lightheadedness, or, in some instances, even fainting.

It is possible to experience muscle cramps during or after an iron infusion. These can occur in various parts of your body, ranging from mild inconvenience to more pronounced discomfort. These muscle cramps are likely attributed to your body’s adaptation to the influx of additional iron.

Hydration plays a pivotal role in addressing these bothersome muscle cramps by ensuring you maintain adequate hydration by consuming a sufficient amount of water. Gentle stretching exercises can also serve as valuable tools for alleviating discomfort. If you need additional relief, the application of heat or cold packs to the affected area can yield favorable results.

Should these muscle cramps persist or worsen, be sure to consult your healthcare provider for further evaluation and guidance.

Gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea and vomiting can also occur during or after an iron infusion. These symptoms generally subside within a matter of hours or days.

During that time, it is beneficial to prioritize hydration and opt for a dietary approach characterized by small but frequent meals. Avoiding fatty or greasy foods can diminish the likelihood of experiencing queasiness during this period.

Risk Factors for Side Effects

While generally considered safe and effective, it’s crucial to be aware of certain factors that can influence the likelihood of experiencing side effects.

Existing medical conditions

You may have an elevated risk of complications during the infusion if you have a history of liver disease, kidney problems, heart conditions, or autoimmune disorders.

Allergies

If you have a documented history of allergic reactions to iron or other medications, the chances of experiencing an allergic response during the infusion increase. Sharing comprehensive information about known allergies with your healthcare provider is essential to ensure appropriate precautions are taken.

Age and gender

Older adults and pregnant women may be more susceptible to specific side effects. Your healthcare provider will carefully weigh these variables in the risk-benefit assessment.

Dosage and duration of the infusion

Higher dosages or extended infusion periods can heighten the probability of adverse reactions.

Having an open discussion with your healthcare provider before proceeding is essential. They will tailor these aspects precisely to meet your individual medical needs and overall health status.

Precautions to Minimize Side Effects

Before undergoing an iron infusion, following a set of precautions is crucial to minimize the likelihood of side effects and ensure a safe and effective procedure.

Your healthcare provider will initiate the process with a thorough evaluation. This includes essential blood tests to assess your iron levels and identify any underlying health conditions that could impact the infusion. This initial assessment serves as the cornerstone of your entire iron infusion plan, ensuring it is finely tuned to your unique requirements.

In certain instances, you may be prescribed medications to be taken prior to the infusion. These medications may encompass over-the-counter pain relievers, antihistamines, or anti-nausea drugs. View these medications as valuable aids in managing potential discomfort during and after the infusion. Strict adherence to the prescribed regimen is vital for their effectiveness.

On the day of the infusion, you won’t be navigating this journey alone. Your healthcare provider will be right there with you, meticulously monitoring vital signs such as blood pressure and heart rate. They will also administer a test dose prior to the full infusion to ensure you do not experience an allergic reaction during treatment. This attentive oversight ensures that the procedure progresses smoothly, with immediate intervention available if necessary.

By conscientiously observing these precautions, you are adopting a responsible approach to mitigate the risk of side effects and assure the safety and success of your iron infusion. Maintain open and transparent communication with your healthcare provider throughout the process, as they are your primary source of support and guidance.

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.

Red blood cells in a blood vessel

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.

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).

couple having iv infusion in their home

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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