Vitamin B shots, oxygen tanks, invasive detox treatments — the line between medicine and spa services seems to have become increasingly blurred. And nowhere is that line fuzzier than in the new mini-trend of “hydration clinics,” where the parched, hungover and sunburnt can revel in the rejuvenation that only an intravenous drip can deliver.

Hangover Heaven in Las Vegas offers to “resolve epic hangovers from alcohol” by means of IV hydration tendered by a “hangover specialist.” Miami’s Reviv offers “IV infusions that rapidly counter the stress … and cumulative effects of the South Beach lifestyle.” And now the latest one-stop IV shop, revive hydration clinic, which opened last month in Chicago. And while revive offers IVs for the generally fatigued, excessively exercised, and over-celebratory, the clinic also specializes in treating those suffering from cold and flu.

Of the more than 150 clients served so far, most have been seeking relief from illness. Coughing, aching clientele are hooked up to the “Lactated Ringer’s” solution, which contains a magic mix of essential nutrients like potassium and sodium, along with vitamin C and vitamin B complex. Once the drip is dripping, IV-connected clients are led to one of several different lounges for the hour it takes for the solution to run its course. Options include secluded rooms for relaxing, a conference room with Wi-Fi for working, and a living room where the hydrating set can socialize and watch movies.

Started by Dr. Jack Dybis, trauma and general surgeon at a well-respected Chicago hospital system, the clinic was created after Dybis’ grandmother underwent repeated hospital admissions to treat complications from dehydration. The surgeon explored the idea of treating dehydration outside of a hospital setting, and thus, revive was born.

A 2007 study revealed that dehydration cost hospitals $5.5 billion in one year alone. Dybis contends that providing an alternative path for treating common dehydration could lead to significant health care savings — along with saving a client the time of dealing with dehydration at home.

Although patients’ medical histories are thoroughly vetted at the clinic, experts express concern that if someone is very ill and isn’t aware that they may have a serious condition in need of immediate medical attention, they shouldn’t be wasting time at an IV clinic. And there are other risks as well.

“IV fluids are a drug, and just like any drug, there’s a proper dosage for different clinical conditions,” Dr. David Ross, a Colorado Springs physician who has been practicing emergency medicine since 1992, told Time. “Any time someone puts a needle in your vein, there’s a possibility of infection and a risk of a clot forming in the vein. You could develop thrombophlebitis, and it’s possible to get an infection at the site that can spread to the heart, which is called endocarditis.”

The consensus among some doctors is that patients who are not sick enough to go to the hospital do not need to receive a hospital treatment. The risks are not worth the small benefits, which most experts say can be delivered with over-the-counter medications, plenty of fluids, rest and chicken soup.

That said, revive’s clients couldn’t be happier with the treatments received; according to Yelp reviews, it’s five stars all the way.

If you’re looking to treat flu-related dehydration and want to save yourself $99 and a poke in the vein, here’s what the CDC suggests (noting that mild fluid loss can most often be treated at home. Severe dehydration is very serious and must be treated in the hospital):

  • Give plenty of liquids at the first sign of flu. Sick people with the flu need to drink extra fluids to keep from getting dehydrated.
  • If the sick person is not eating well, encourage them to drink liquids. Avoid alcohol or drinks with caffeine such as colas, tea and coffee.
  • Older adults and people with kidney problems should check with their doctor about safe amounts of liquid to drink when sick.
  • Offer clear fluids such as water, broth or sports drinks.
  • Use a squeeze bottle or a straw for people too weak to drink from a cup. Or offer ice chips or frozen ice pops to suck on.
Related flu stories on MNN:
MNN tease photo of IV drip: Shutterstock
Storefront IV clinic offers quick fix for flu sufferers
Chicago residents have a new way of treating the flu, but is it worth the risk?