Drug desensitization (1514)

Key points below

Why does a patient need desensitization?

When someone is allergic to a drug, their body reacts to it in an unsafe way. Sometimes a patient needs this treatment. If there are no other medicines that can be taken, a desensitization may be tried.

What is desensitization?

Desensitization is a process.  Tiny doses of the medicine are given very slowly so the body does not react to the medicine. This effect is only short-term. If  the medicine is stopped, a desensitization would be needed again. 

Common medicine allergies treated with desensitization include:

What do I need to do before the procedure?

What happens during the procedure?

Are there any risks?

You will be getting a medicine that you are allergic to. Because of this, there is a risk for reactions.  Some of the reactions may result in the need for life saving medicines, like  epinephrine. In rare cases, desensitization can cause a severe reaction that leads to death. For these reasons, all patients are closely watched in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). 

The risks are higher when:

What are the possible reactions?

Serious Reactions: These can be very serious and can lead to death if they are not treated. Tell the nurse right away if you have any of the following:

If there is a serious or anaphylactic reaction, emergency medicine will be given right away.

What happens after the procedure?

It is important that you do not do not miss even one dose of this medicine. Take it as prescribed. If you miss a dose of your medicine, the reaction will come back and it could be severe.

If you need this medicine again, or if you miss any doses, you will have to do the desensitization procedure again.


Call the doctor, nurse, or clinic if you have any concerns or if:

  • A reaction happens after going home from the ICU.
  • A dose of the medicine is missed.
  • There are special health care needs not covered by this information.