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How to Care for a Peripheral IV (PIV)

What is a peripheral IV?

A peripheral intravenous line or catheter is a small, short tube placed into a vein through the skin using a needle. A peripheral IV is a way to take blood samples or give some medicines or fluids into a vein. Most of the time it is placed in the:

  • Hand
  • Arm
  • Foot
  • Scalp (in babies)

You might hear a peripheral IV called a PIV, peripheral intravenous line, or peripheral intravenous catheter.

The length of time the IV stays in depends on how well it works and how long your child needs it. Every child is different. Talk with your child’s doctor or nurse if you have questions.

A peripheral IV in an arm

A peripheral IV is a way to give medicine or fluid into a vein.

Caring for an IV in the hospital

It is important that your child’s IV stays in place and is secure. Germs may get into the IV and cause an infection, or a blood clot may form and block the line.

While your child is in the hospital, your care team will do these things to keep the IV secure and check for infection and blood clots:

  • Put a bandage (dressing) or another protection over the IV area.
  • Change the IV pump tubing regularly, depending on how the IV is used.
  • Clean the IV openings (ports) and connectors before working with the IV tube or line.
  • Flush (rinse) the IV with saline or heparin solution when needed if your child is not using it.
  • Flush the IV with saline or heparin solution before and after they work with it.
  • Check the IV for leaking fluid, swelling, redness, tenderness, or pain.
  • Make sure the bandage is holding the IV securely in place.
  • Check to see if they can get blood from the IV.
  • Perform other checks to ensure your child’s safety.

How to care for your child’s IV at home

If your child goes home with an IV, you will learn how to care for the IV. Always follow the instructions given by the care team.

Keep the IV secure.

  • Do not remove the bandage (dressing) over the IV area.
  • Do not remove the tape that secures the IV.
  • Keep the IV in place. Don’t let your child or others move it or pull it when doing daily activities.
  • Do not let your child do activities like swimming, rough play, or contact sports like football.
  • Do not use scissors or other sharp objects near the line.

Keep the IV area clean and dry.

  • Before caring for or checking your child’s IV, wash your hands well with soap and water for 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
    • Be sure to wash the wrists, back of hands, and between fingers. Dry your hands with a paper towel or a clean cloth towel.
    • You can also use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Apply it all over your hands, and rub it until they are completely dry.
  • Do not get the line or dressing wet. Moisture can help germs grow and cause infection.
  • Make sure that you can see the line and how it looks.
  • Watch for symptoms such as pain or discomfort or signs your child is not feeling well.
  • Do not let your child or others touch or look at the line.

Always take steps to prevent infection. An infection can become life-threatening.

Check your child’s IV and watch for signs of infection

Check your child’s IV every 3–4 hours. Make sure you clean your hands well before checking the IV. Look for any problems listed below. These may be a sign of infection, blood clots, or problem with the line.

Call the clinic or hospital if you notice any of these problems:

  • Leaking fluid
  • Swelling or puffiness
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Redness, peeling, flaking, rash, or blisters on the skin
  • Tenderness
  • Warmth around the IV (hot to the touch)
  • Pain or burning
  • Problems moving the limb (arm, leg, hand) with the IV
  • Sudden shortness of breath or sudden pain
  • IV tubing that is not secure or has moved
  • A lost IV cap

Important: If you notice any of the problems listed above, call your child’s primary clinic or provider right away or go to your local emergency room. You do not want to wait too long and let problems get worse or become life-threatening. After hours or on the weekend, call the hospital and ask for the nursing coordinator or the doctor on call.

What to do if the IV comes out

  1. Apply pressure to where it came out of the body for 5 minutes with a sterile gauze pad, if available, if not a clean cloth.
  2. Cover where the line came out of the body with a bandage or gauze and tape.
  3. Call your clinic or the Infusion Center (901-595-2441).

Key Points

  • Always clean your hands before touching or checking your child’s IV.
  • Watch your child carefully for signs of infection such as swelling, redness, fever, chills, warmth around the IV site, and rapid heartbeat.
  • Check your child’s IV site regularly for any signs of problems, such as movement of the line, pain or burning around the line, swelling, redness, bleeding, or difficulty breathing.
  • Contact your health care provider right away if you notice any problems.
  • Do not let your child touch the IV, do rough play, or get the line wet.

For more information

Fever and Signs of Infection in Childhood and Adolescent Cancer 

How to Flush a Peripheral IV

Getting an IV 

If you have questions about how the medical staff maintains your child’s IV or how to maintain an IV at home, please ask your child’s doctor or nurse.

Reviewed: August 2022