Drips (Cannula Or IV Line)

Drips (Cannula Or IV Line)

A drip is a short, small plastic tube that a doctor or nurse may put into your child's vein using a needle. They remove the needle and leave the plastic tube in place so they can use medicines to treat your child.


Photo of a child with a cannula in their hand in a hospital bed


What is a drip?

A drip is sometimes known as a cannula, or IV line.

It's a short, small plastic tube with a needle inside.

Photo of a cannula with a needle and inserter

A member of the healthcare team will put the drip into your child's vein.

They will take the needle out and leave the plastic tube in so they can use medicines to treat your child.

Cannula sheath with needle removed

Sometimes, a doctor or nurse may take blood samples from the drip.

Illustration showing a childs arm with a cannula in it

Why would my child need a drip?

The drip will allow your child's medicine to go directly into their vein.

Your child will have a drip if they are too sick to swallow medicine or if it is the best way to give medicine.

How will they put the drip in?

Putting on numbing cream

The doctor or nurse may first put a numbing cream on your child’s skin. It takes about 30 to 60 minutes for the numbing cream to work. If your child needs a drip urgently, there may not be time to put on numbing cream.

Putting in the drip

A doctor or nurse will use a tight band (tourniquet) around your child's arm or leg.

Your child will need to be still while the drip is put into their vein. The healthcare team will help you comfort and hold your child. 

A child's veins are quite small and the doctor or nurse may need to try several veins to get the drip in place. Putting the drip in can hurt. 

Once the drip is in the vein, the doctor or nurse will take out the needle, leaving the plastic tube in. Tape and bandages will hold the plastic tube in place. 

Your child may have a padded board (splint) to keep their hand or foot still.

Taking blood tests

The doctor or nurse may take blood tests from the drip when they are putting it in. If they cannot collect enough blood from the drip, your child may need a separate blood test.

How will my child receive medicine?

A doctor or nurse will attach long tubing or syringes to the drip to give the medicine. Often, the doctor or nurse will put long tubing into a special (IV) pump. It controls the amount of medicine that will go in. 

Your child's healthcare team will discuss with you how long the drip needs to stay in. This will depend on why your child is having the drip, and how quickly they get better.

What problems can happen with drips?

Drips can block, leak or become infected. The healthcare team will regularly check the drip and the area around the drip. They will look for redness, swelling, leakage and pain where the drip goes in. Sometimes, they may need to put a new drip in another place. There can be a bruise around where the drip was. This will soon fade.

If you are worried, please ask the healthcare team to check your child's drip.

What can I do to help my child while they are having a drip put in?

You can comfort your child by staying with them as the drip is put in. 

It is helpful to distract your child by cuddling, telling stories, singing or playing with a toy or game. Try to remain calm and comfort your child. Praise your child afterwards - putting in a drip is not easy for a child.  

The staff are there to help you and your child. If you would like more information, please ask the healthcare team caring for your child.


The facts about drips | The Sydney Children's Hospitals Network.


Illustration of child's arm with a cannula in place by Dr Greta File. Property of KidsHealth. 

Photos of cannula with and without needle property of KidsHealth. 

This page last reviewed 14 November 2023.

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