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What are IV Antibiotics?

By Erin J. Hill
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Intravenous (IV) antibiotics are medications which are delivered directly into the bloodstream using a needle and tubing connected to a bag or container. Most often, the medication is delivered slowly through a drip process, which helps to avoid introducing air into the blood. IV antibiotics are generally used for the treatment of bacterial infections. By delivering the medications into the bloodstream directly, they are carried to the site of infection more quickly and efficiently in order to promote a speedier healing time.

IV antibiotics are usually reserved for severe infections which require faster treatment. Lesser bacterial growths are treated using oral antibiotics, which carry fewer side effects and chances for complications. They may also be given in much higher doses, depending on the severity and type of infection being treated. Sometimes intravenous antibiotics may be used in a less severe infection if oral medications cannot get to the appropriate location. For instance, pregnant women are given IV medication for group B strep bacteria because oral versions do not effectively kill the bacteria in the vagina to offer protection for the baby.

As with all variations, IV antibiotics are only used to kill bacterial growths. They are not effective at combating viruses or other illnesses. Side effects may include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and other digestive upset. These may be mild or severe, depending on the dosage being used and the patient’s individual tolerances.

The use of IV antibiotics is generally restricted and are used only when absolutely necessary. They carry slight risks, such as the development of drug-resistant bacteria. Sometimes irritation or pain may occur at the site of injection.

Yeast overgrowth and resulting irritation is common with the use of IV antibiotics. This requires a different type of medication to treat. The frequent use of antibiotics may cause recurrent yeast infections, and may interfere with the effectiveness of certain other medications, such as birth control pills.

Patients who are given IV antibiotics should be given an explanation of the illness being treated as well as the side effects and risks associated with intravenous medications. When non-life threatening illnesses are the cause, the benefits of using IV methods of treatment versus oral medication should be weighed and explained to the patient in detail. If oral methods are an option, he or she should be given the appropriate information in order to make an informed decision.

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Discussion Comments
By anon340528 — On Jul 03, 2013

Instead of worrying about the use of IV antibiotics, think of how amazing this medication is and how quickly you can be treated. I work with patients whom I have to give this to and they recover quickly and don't complain about being given intravenously. That's why we are here to talk you through it and make it a less distressing experience.

By mitchell14 — On Apr 18, 2011

I was hearing a story about a friend needing to use IV antibiotics the other day, and before that I hadn't even realized that people used them. I am extremely wary of using antibiotics, and have no idea what I would do if I was told I neededto take then in an IV.

By FernValley — On Apr 16, 2011

A friend of mine recently found out his sister was in the hospital with a possible infection, and they were giving her IV antibiotic therapy so strong, the vein in her arm would have taken the medication throughout her body too quickly, and they needed another vein. It seems to me like a very delicate thing.

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