Banana Bag 101: What Is It and How Does It Work?

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Banana Bag 101: What Is It and How Does It Work?

Chronic alcohol abuse has an established link to many health issues. Alcohol dependence can increase the risk of liver damage, different types of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Additionally, chronic alcohol abuse can lead to electrolyte imbalance and vitamin deficiency. 

Electrolytes, which conduct electricity, are substances that help maintain vital processes in the human body. We need electrolytes to help our muscles contract, remain hydrated and repair damaged tissue. Electrolytes in the human body include bicarbonate, calcium chloride, magnesium, phosphate, potassium and sodium. If electrolyte levels become unbalanced, either too high or too low, symptoms can include weakness, changes in heartbeat, twitching muscles and seizures. Alcohol abuse can affect electrolyte levels in the body, as well as the levels of essential vitamins. People who suffer from alcohol abuse may be deficient in vitamin A, vitamin B6, folate and thiamine. 

Approximately 25% of patients admitted to community hospitals are there for alcohol-related treatment. While alcohol abuse can necessitate multiple different approaches to care, a banana bag is a standard treatment for electrolyte and vitamin deficiencies. 

What Is a Banana Bag?

A banana bag, also known as a rally pack, is a bag of fluids given to patients intravenously. You may also hear it called an IV drip bag, and doctors usually administer it to patients with alcohol abuse disorder in the intensive care units of hospitals. These electrolytes and vitamins come formulated in a saline solution or dextrose in water, depending on the patient's needs. Saline is typically best if the patient is dehydrated, while a dextrose solution is more appropriate for patients with metabolic acidosis, a dangerous buildup of acid in the body due to alcohol consumption. 

How Does a Banana Bag Work?

A banana bag patient typically gets hooked up to an IV drip when in the emergency room or when admitted to the hospital, which is how a banana bag works. The fluid in the banana bag contains essential electrolytes and vitamins often found to be deficient in patients with alcohol abuse issues. The IV delivers the fluid to the patient's body through the vein, or intravenously. This delivery method can rapidly address concerns like dehydration, as well as electrolyte imbalance and vitamin deficiency. A patient will usually undergo treatment with a banana bag for over 24 hours

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What Is in a Banana Bag?

banana bag contains the following ingredients.

  • A multivitamin: A banana bag will have a multivitamin that includes several different foundational vitamins essential to human health. Some patients may require additional vitamin supplementation. Multivitamins can vary in their makeup, but they typically involve a variety of vitamins and minerals essential to your health. 
  • Folic acid: Banana bags contain one milligram of folic acid, also known as folate. The former is synthesized vitamin B9, while the latter is naturally occurring vitamin B9. Folate deficiency can result in headaches, weakness, fatigue and heart palpitations. Alcohol use can result in folate deficiency due to malabsorption and increased excretion via the urine. 
  • Magnesium: A banana bag includes one to two grams of magnesium. This essential electrolyte facilitates hundreds of different biochemical reactions in the human body. Over time, magnesium deficiency can increase the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Alcohol can increase the excretion of magnesium and reduce the body's stores of the electrolyte. 
  • Thiamine: Banana bags also include 100 milligrams of thiamine, also known as vitamin B1. Thiamine deficiency leads to confusion, weight loss and cardiovascular symptoms. A lack of thiamine can also cause Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, which affects the brain and nervous system. 

Banana Bag Uses

There is some controversy over the use and efficacy of banana bags, but they often occur in conjunction with other treatments, to address issues such as the following. 

  • Alcohol poisoning: Alcohol poisoning can result from the over-consumption of alcohol. Symptoms can include vomiting, slowed respiration, seizures and loss of consciousness. When someone with alcohol poisoning goes to the emergency room, the care team may administer a banana bag to help hydrate the patient and restore essential electrolytes and vitamins. 
  • Alcoholic ketoacidosis: Alcoholic ketoacidosis can be a consequence of drinking too much. When you have a chronic drinking problem, dangerous levels of acid could begin to build up in the body. Symptoms of this condition include fatigue, abdominal pain, vomiting, signs of dehydration and changes in breathing. Doctors will likely administer IV fluids, such as a banana bag, to treat patients with this condition.
  • Hangovers: Hangovers, while certainly less severe than many other consequences of drinking, can be unpleasant. You feel tired, thirsty and nauseated. You have a tough time sleeping, and any bright lights only make your headache worse. Banana bags, administered on demand, can help reduce the symptoms of a hangover. 

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Why Is It Called a Banana Bag?

This IV drip bag gets its name from its characteristic yellow hue. Why is a banana bag yellow? The thiamine and multivitamin components of the banana bag are responsible for its signature color. In addition to the fruit-inspired name, another name for an IV bag is a rally pack. The treatment most likely earned its informal nickname because it can help people get back on their feet, or rally, after excessive drinking. 

Where Can You Get One?

Now that you know what a banana bag is, where do you find one?

  • Hospitals: If you are experiencing severe complications from drinking, such as alcohol poisoning, you need to call 911 or go to the nearest hospital. Health care providers administer banana bags in the emergency rooms and intensive care units of hospitals. 
  • IV drip bars: IV drip services are also an option for people seeking relief from less severe issues, like a pesky hangover. These services, staffed by medical professionals, operate out of clinics and mobile vehicles. 
  • At your home: Finally, you can access the potential benefits of a banana bag from the comfort of your home, thanks to on-demand IV services. 

Call or text Arizona IV Medics for on-demand IV services delivered by professionals in your home. We help treat the symptoms of your hangover, migraine, morning sickness and the flu while you relax at home. Forget about the waiting room, and reach out to us for relief. 

Matt Heistan
Matt Heistan
Matt is the CEO of AZ IV Medics. Matt has over 15 years of experience in the emergency medicine field. Matt attended Westwood High School, Scottsdale Community College, and the University of Maryland where he received a BS in Psychology. Matt is a 10-year USAF veteran and has been an EMT since 1999. After separating from the USAF, Matt was hired by the Peoria AZ Fire Dept. where he has worked as a Firefighter Paramedic for the last 10 years. Matt is a life-long athlete, from college football to powerlifting, to Crossfit, to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

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