Chat & Selfie

Hydration, hangovers and taco truck-like house calls

Dr. Elizabeth Bales, an anesthesiologist, talks hydration, hangovers and California's health obsession

As anesthesiology residents at USC, Elizabeth Bales and her colleagues couldn't take time off when they were feeling under the weather. So they'd hook themselves up to intravenous drips. Now a new business the 39-year-old anesthesiologist co-founded, the Hydration Room, offers IV therapy for weight loss, anxiety and, yes, hangovers. The California section's Emily Foxhall drank iced tea at A Market, in Newport Beach, while Dr. Bales, despite the drought, sipped water and talked hydration, hangovers and California's health obsession. We emailed her questions and crunched the conversation into this:

Alternative health entrepreneurs have weight loss and headaches covered, but hangovers?

It's only 5% of our business, but hangover IV therapy centers seem to be popping up everywhere. Moms walk in on Saturday and Sunday mornings after spending a night out with girlfriends. They need to be at their kid's sports activities all day and want to be back in action as quickly as possible.

We'd always thought IVs belonged in emergency rooms, but you're talking about taking your IVs on the road, like a taco truck, right?

We are considering the addition of a mobile service for patients who can't get out of bed. Our concept is drawn from the days when doctors made house calls, not an ice cream truck rolling through the city of Newport Beach.

How about this: Install IV feeds in nightclubs — use one arm to supply the liquor and the other to address the hangover?

It would make more sense at something like a corporate wellness retreat or a health expo to reduce stress and/or improve energy and efficiency.

You say people are into your "energy boost" IV. Why are we all tired?

Everyone these days has demanding careers and full social calendars. On top of that, many of our patients are juggling their children's activities. They push themselves to the limit, all the while experiencing inadequate hydration, the most common reason for fatigue.

Is this an only-in-Orange County kind of phenomenon?

We chose Newport Beach specifically because that's where we live. Patients are coming all the way from San Diego to Ventura. The phenomenon is patients putting health as a priority, and showing up on our doorstep.

Does it strike you as extreme that people will get stuck with needles when the alternative is to hit the drinking fountain or vitamin jar?

Not at all. Maintaining a state of balanced hydration is not easy. Add to that increased metabolic requirements, such as extreme exercise, heat, severe migraines, cold and flu (conditions where you can't even tolerate drinking water). Hitting the drinking fountain serves as a temporary Band-Aid.

Are we Californians just too lazy and self-indulgent?

I don't think people are lazy. There is just a lack of education and understanding about health and nutrition priorities.

Should L.A. City Hall install these needle bars to keep employees go, go, going?

Professional athletes are already using IV therapy pre- and post-game to hydrate. They've known this secret for years.

SoCal's biggest addiction: caffeine or Ambien?

Caffeine. It surprises me when my patients come into the clinic with a large coffee but not a bottle of water.

Which festival sends us home with the worst hangovers?

Stagecoach. They're filling up on beer all day under a hot desert sun and don't have room for water.

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