Tips for Infusion Therapy
There are several different ways to take biologics for psoriatic arthritis. Some medications come in pill form, others are given in the form of shots, while still others are given through an IV and are often referred to as infusions. Infusions are usually done in a hospital, at the doctor’s office, or in some cases, the comfort of your own home. No matter where you receive your infusion, there are a few tips for infusion therapy that I have found to help make each infusion go as smoothly as possible.
When I had my first infusion, I will totally admit to being scared. I didn’t know what to expect and I have quite a bit of generalized fear of the unknown anyway. So, in case you aren’t sure what to expect, or what you can do, here are a few tips for infusion therapy I’ve picked up along the way.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
Start at least 24-48 hours before an infusion and make sure to drink PLENTY of water. Having a well-hydrated body will make it easier for your infusion nurses to find a good vein. Good veins + fewer pokes = a happy patient!
I’m not sure if it is the medication or the actual temperature in the room, but I am usually FREEZING for a solid 24 hours after an infusion. I make sure to bring my own cozy blankie (some have them available at the office) to cuddle up with. Long sleeves won’t cut it for this since one arm will be exposed. Heating pads and electric blankets also work well once you get home to try and take the chill off. I’ve also found that a nice, hot epsom salt bath works great too.
Watch for reactions
After my first Remicade infusion, when I left, I felt very tired, but overall fine. But by the time I got home, my neck and face were splotchy and red. (Insert freak out face here!) My tongue was also slightly swollen. I was having a reaction! The nurses left me with a form and a number to call if I noticed any reactions. This is handy to have nearby after every single infusion so you always know what to do. Even if this is not your first infusion, always be on the lookout for reactions, you can develop them with any infusion, not just your first.
Pack a snack
Getting medication on an empty stomach is never a good idea. You are more susceptible to lightheadedness, nausea, and low blood pressure. Having a healthy snack to eat during your infusion will keep your blood sugar regulated and your tummy feeling fine.
No one in an infusion center is going to judge your fashion choices on infusion day. Comfort should be your number one concern. Leggings, sweatpants, or pretty much anything cotton and loose fitting will fit the bill. I’ve even seen people in their pajamas getting infusions and no one even batted an eye. Comfort is key.
Find ways to pass the time
Read a book, play on social media, journal, color, knit, anything – just be sure to pack something to pass the time. When I was getting Remicade infusions, because of my reactions, they had to run the medicine very, very slowly. It would take me sometimes 5-6 hours from start to finish between the medicine and pre-meds. That was a long time to sit and hang out at the doctor’s office. If you plan on using electronics to pass the time, remember to check with your doctor’s office about wifi passwords and don’t forget earbuds if you want to watch a movie on your laptop or listen to music. You may love Smashing Pumpkins or The Walking Dead, but that doesn’t mean everyone in the office will.
Bring a friend
Having a friend with you is always a good idea, especially for your first infusion since you don’t know how your body will react to the medicine. Having a friend with you can help pass the time and take care of the transportation in case it is not safe for you to drive afterward. At the very least, have a friend or family member on-call in case your get your infusion and can’t drive home afterwards. Some of the pre-meds, like Benadryl, can make you very drowsy and then you shouldn’t be behind the wheel.
Infusions therapy can be a great way to get the medication needed to fight psoriatic arthritis. Being prepared for your infusion can go a long way to calming your nerves and keeping those feelings of fear in check. Do you have any infusion tips to add? What have you found to make infusion therapy as pleasant as possible?