Is IV-Hydration Therapy the Cure All?


illustration by Darren Gygi

The idea of voluntarily hooking up to an intravenous drip might seem as odd as a recreational gynecological exam. But given a painful enough hangover, even the most needle-averse might be willing to give it a try in order to get rehydrated—at least that’s the hope of Josh Attree, founder of Hydrate, a new IV-hydration therapy provider in the Twin Cities.

The trend is popular with stars such as Madonna, Rihanna, and Neil Patrick Harris, and has been steadily trickling down (so to speak) to the masses since 2012. Minneapolis joins party-loving cities including Miami, Vegas, and L.A. with Hydrate, which started offering the therapy via its mobile truck in August. The company is set to open a brick-and-mortar “medi-spa” in Minneapolis’ Calhoun Village this winter.

The service (priced between $79 and $149) is aimed at those who may have overindulged the night before, people fighting a cold or the flu, travelers suffering from jet lag, and anyone else looking for a general pick-me-up. The IVs are administered by trained paramedics or RNs, and contain a mix of vitamins and minerals Attree says are formulated to address complaints ranging from athletes’ post-workout soreness to fatigue, dry skin, and aging.

I tried the therapy at Hydrate’s temporary home—a Minnetonka cosmetic salon that offered an approximation of the company’s vision for its permanent home in Calhoun Village. In a small, private room with dim lighting, soft music, and a partly reclined table/bed, a bearded paramedic prepped a bag of fluids. If it weren’t for his scrubs and the IV stand, I could have been in an acupuncture or massage studio.

After I filled out a brief medical history questionnaire on an iPad, the paramedic checked my vitals and inserted the IV in the top of my left forearm—not terribly painful, but not entirely pleasant—and the cool, yellow-tinged liquid started coursing up my arm. It took about 20 minutes for the bag to empty, and I was on my way, feeling little different from when I’d arrived.

Dr. Bill Roberts, a family physician with the University of Minnesota, has extensive experience with hydration through his role as the medical director of the Twin Cities Marathon for the past 35 years, and is unambiguous in his assessment of casual IV therapy: “IV fluids are life-saving in some situations, but there’s no real reason to use them outside of those situations,” he says. “Mother Nature intended for us to consume fluids orally except in times of illness.”

Attree acknowledges that all the vitamins and minerals included in their IV packages (options include “cold & flu” and “health & beauty”) can be obtained through a proper diet. “But most people don’t do that,” he says. “I get an IV weekly, because I don’t have time to get sick.”

Roberts notes that inserting a needle into a vein isn’t without medical risk and is skeptical of the therapy’s ability to ward off sickness. “If you have the flu, nausea, and vomiting to the level that you need IV fluids, you should be under the care of a medical team in the hospital,” he recommends. “But there’s no data that would support an IV reducing your chances of getting the flu.”

Attree says the response he gets from his clients is enthusiastic and gratifying. “People have called and thanked me personally,” he says. “They say they feel better after an IV than they did before they started drinking the night before. We get people back to feeling amazing.”

Meanwhile, Roberts advocates a more tried and true method of feeling well: “Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and sleep is far better than any IV they can stick in your arm,” he says.

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