Tips For A Better Infusion

Prepare Yourself If You Receive Your IBD Medications Through An IV

Increasingly, treatments for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and other autoimmune conditions are being done with a class of drugs called biologics. These drugs have changed the landscape of how IBD is treated. Some of these medications are given by infusion.

Infusions are often done in a hospital or other health care setting, although they may occasionally be done at home. Having an infusion means, in short, receiving a drug intravenously. What this boils down to is sitting or lying down while a health care professional sets up an IV and administers the drug(s) into your bloodstream. Far more complex than taking a pill with a glass of water, an infusion requires some preparation in order for you to be comfortable before, during, and after. Here are some tips on how to get ready for infusion day.

1
Before Your First Infusion (Several Weeks Ahead of Time)

Syringe
Before receiving an infusion, some vaccinations might be needed. Image © Iwan Beijes

There are certain things that you and your doctor must do before you can have your first infusion. In some cases, you might need vaccinations, and your physicians can help you determine which ones are needed and when they should be given. You may also need a tuberculosis test, unless you've had one recently. This is also the time to ask any questions you have about receiving an infusion, or about the drug itself, such as potential reactions or side effects.

2
Prepare Your Body (A Week Ahead of Time)

Water
Every person's water needs are different. Check with your health care team to find out how much you should be drinking. Photo © Anusorn P nachol

An infusion means getting an IV, and the best thing you can do to prepare for it is to be properly hydrated. In the days before your infusion, drink plenty of water and try to avoid caffeine. Being well rested is always a good idea, but it's certainly more difficult than it seems. If sleep is an issue for you, be sure to put forth some extra effort into getting quality sleep and rest in the several days before your infusion.

3
Bring A Friend To Your Infusion (A Week Ahead of Time)

Helping Hands
Helping Hands. Image © andyreis

If you are able to bring a friend or family member to your first infusion, they can help in several ways. If you are having any anxiety about the infusion, having a friend on hand can help calm you. If your plus one can also drive you to the infusion location, that will take a lot of pressure off you the day.

Having a driver can also be helpful in the unlikely event that you have an adverse reaction, or even if you just don't feel quite up to driving yourself home. A friend can also help you remember any special directions that are given to you by your doctor or nurse before you leave the infusion center.

4
Dressing For Your Infusion (Infusion Day)

Shoes
Wear something fun. Image © Michael & Christa Richert

You will want to be comfortable, and dressing in whatever way makes you feel best is what you should do. For some, that may mean athletic pants and a sweatshirt, but for others that may mean dressing up in your Sunday best. The point is to have the confidence that you need in order to have a successful infusion without undue stress and anxiety. Another point to keep in mind, especially if you are experiencing a flare-up with diarrhea, is that you will likely need to use the toilet one-handed, depending on the location of your IV. Many people with IBD have perfected this technique, but it can become an issue if there are too many buttons or zippers to manipulate with one hand.

5
Bring Something To Do (Infusion Day)

Cell Phone
Cell Phone. Photo © Salvatore Vuono

When you have an infusion, you are obligated to sit in a chair and not move around. For many people, that means instant boredom. Therefore, having something to do will be important. It should be something quiet that you can do by yourself while sitting in a chair. The most obvious is to bring a book or magazine, but you could also catch up on email, knit, write a letter, or do crossword or sudoku puzzles. Whatever activity will get you outside of yourself and let you pass the time comfortably is the one that you should bring with you.

6
Go Home And Rest (After The Infusion)

Bedroom
Your bedroom is an important part of your sleep. Clutter and distractions in your bedroom can keep you from proper sleep. Photo © Mr Lightman

People have many different reactions to an infusion: some people may feel no different, but others may be fatigued or feel generally unwell. Some people have reported feeling as though they have more energy when they finish an infusion. However you feel afterwards, you will need to take care of yourself, and that means keeping stress under control, having a healthy meal, and getting some rest. Ideally, you will have your friend or family member drive you home where you can recharge and prepare to to return to your normal activities, such as work or school, the day after your infusion. You should have the phone number for your physician and/or the infusion center handy in case you have any further questions. 

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