Hyposensitization – Treatment, Effect & Risks


Desensitization is a therapy that tries to limit the effects of allergic diseases During hyposensitization, small amounts of allergenic substances are introduced into the organism. The aim of the treatment is to get used to the allergy-triggering substances and to stop the immune system from overreacting.

What is hyposensitization?

Hyposensitization is also known as allergy vaccination. Conventional medicine today offers hyposensitization, the only therapy that aims to treat allergies causally. The naming is made up of the Greek prefix “hypo”, which in this context has the meaning of “to weaken” and the Latin term “sensus” for sensation. This describes what the therapy is supposed to achieve.

The body’s own immune system becomes accustomed to allergenic substances such as pollen or house dust mites through repeated and steadily increasing doses . The immune system should no longer perceive the substances as a threat. It learns to classify contact with these allergenic substances as completely normal. This training of the patient’s own immune system is intended to ensure that the tormenting symptoms of the allergy such as itchy skin , persistent runny nose, reddened eyes and irritated mucous membranes of the respiratory tract improve or even disappear completely after hypodesensitization has been completed.

Another goal is to prevent the development of further allergies with hyposensitization. In the case of hay fever , the dreaded “floor change” should be avoided with the therapy. This is an extension of the allergic airway reactions to asthmatic symptoms.

Function, effect & goals

More and more people in industrialized countries are suffering from allergic reactions. The reasons for the increase in patient numbers are not known. There are suggestions that a childhood in an environment that is too sterile can increase the potential for allergies. Studies have shown that children who grow up on farms are significantly less likely to struggle with hay fever than city children. Being in contact with different animals and with nature on a farm is probably a particularly good training for the immune system. 

Grass and bee pollen are swirling all over the growing season. No one can completely avoid them. Dust mites and mold are other substances that are everywhere in our environment. If they do not occur in a particularly high concentration, they do not pose a threat to our immune system. Nevertheless, more and more people are suffering from excessive reactions to these substances.

It is usually an immediate allergic reaction caused by the substances mentioned. But food, animal hair and other actually harmless substances that surround us can also cause health problems. Today there are drugs that are supposed to dampen the immune response. However, the drugs cannot change anything about the cause of the problem.

Before hyposensitization is carried out, the treating doctor carries out an allergy test, in which the reactions to various allergenic substances are tested. Then it is determined to which substances the hypodesensitization should extend. The allergens are usually injected in the tiniest of agents. This is why subcutaneous immunotherapy is also used .

In recent years, new methods have been developed in which the allergen can be taken as drops or tablets. However, there is not yet as much experience of the effect of this form of hyposensitization as with injection therapy. The treatment extends over several years, during which the immune system is repeatedly brought into contact with allergens. Hyposensitization as immune training is recommended if the allergic symptoms are severely affecting the patient’s quality of life or if there is a threat of aggravation in the direction of asthma .

Hyposensitization is not equally suitable for all patients. There are exclusion criteria that speak against allergy vaccination. Anyone who gets involved in hyposensitization must plan a lot of time for the numerous treatment appointments. After the injection, some time should be spent in the practice so that it can be checked whether there are violent reactions to contact with the allergen, which must be treated in an emergency. In people who suffer from other diseases and regularly take medication, the decision to desensitize must be weighed particularly carefully.

The therapy must not be carried out in the case of cardiovascular diseases, hyperthyroidism, rheumatic diseases, immune deficiencies and other serious chronic conditions Desensitization has proven to be most successful in alleviating hay fever symptoms. In the case of excessive reactions to mold or cat dander, the efficiency of the therapy has not yet been sufficiently proven.

Risks, side effects & dangers

Hyposensitization harbors the risk that unforeseen allergic reactions, including allergic shock , can develop during therapy. However, the response of the immune system is usually limited to the fact that the puncture site from the injection needle turns red, that the skin itches or swells slightly. 

Other side effects of the therapy can be problems in the gastrointestinal area or discomfort in the oral mucosa . The length of treatment and the side effects are a reason for many patients to discontinue therapy prematurely. The success of the long-term therapy is considered if the symptoms on contact with allergens are weaker or have disappeared completely. In practice, however, it has been shown that the symptoms can intensify again in some patients after some time.

There are now also immunotherapies that are completed in a few weeks or days. In this case, however, the risk of an allergic shock is considerably greater than if you have become accustomed to the allergens over a period of years. The success rate of the fast-track procedure is currently still highly controversial in specialist circles.

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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.