What’s the Deal with an IV a Day?

ivadayWalk into a Chinese hospital or clinic’s IV zone and a forest of bottles and tubes will meet you, hooked up at every corner of the room pouring fluids into the foreheads of crying babies, or the arms of gloomy adult patients. The National Development and Reform Commission released numbers that calculate that the average Chinese citizen absorbs eight bottles of intravenous therapy a year, almost triple the amount of international levels. The exposure of a 2009 series of research and reports documenting IV consumption raised nationwide attention on the possibilities of adverse effects.

The trend and overuse of drip therapy in China formed over the last few decades as result of the public’s lack of medical education and the hospitals’ desire to increase profit. Most Chinese place value on the quick effects of IV treatment, while remaining unaware and uninformed of possible side effects, such as infection and infiltration (a problem occurring when medication enters the surrounding tissue rather than the vein). IVs are also far more expensive than oral medicines or injections. Local media reported that some hospitals pressure doctors to recommend them to increase revenue.

“In many cases, it is the patient who requests a drip. The trend formed quite a long time ago,” said Yugo Mai, a former doctor with the Dongguan Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine. “The doctors would prescribe IVs for minor ailments, now they won’t unless you have a fever over 38.5 degrees Celsius.”

It is a common sense among Chinese that the intravenous therapy, which goes directly into the vein, heals the symptoms a lot faster than pills and injections. The concept is also deeply rooted in the young mothers, who will take every cost to reduce their child’s suffering.

Unlike in Western countries, where drips are used to correct electrolyte imbalances or for blood transfusion, the most popular function for IVs in China is medication delivery. Fever reducers are commonly administered through IV alongside complementary nutrition like vitamins and glucose. Antibiotics, which for years have been known to be over prescribed in China, play a crucial part in dealing with any symptom of infection.