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Deferoxamine (Desferal)

How does this medicine work?

Deferoxamine (def-er-ox-uh-meen) is a medicine that removes certain metals, such as iron, from the blood.

How should I give it?

Deferoxamine can be given:

  • in a vein (IV)
  • in a central IV access (a port or central catheter)
  • as an injection in the muscle (IM)
  • as an injection under the skin (sub-Q)

After discussion with you, your provider will determine how it will be given. Sometimes it is given by a home care nurse, or you may be taught when and how to give it at home. See the other education sheet(s) given to you for instructions.

Are there any precautions about food or other medicines?

Check with the doctor, nurse practitioner, or pharmacist before giving any other prescription or non-prescription medicines, herbs, or vitamins, especially vitamin C.

What should I do if a dose is missed?

Skip the missed dose and continue with the regular schedule. Never give a double dose.

What are the side effects?


  • pain at the injection site
  • sudden redness of face, neck, or other areas
  • rapid or slow heart rate
  • pain or discomfort in chest or stomach
  • sense of not feeling well rash
  • fever
  • diarrhea (loose stools)
  • low blood pressure while getting medicine
  • shortness of breath
  • leg cramps


  • ringing in the ears
  • dizziness
  • seizures
  • constipation
  • painful or difficult urination
  • low number of platelets in the blood
  • hearing loss
  • vision impairments
  • blood infection
  • allergic reactions

The person taking this medicine should not drive, operate machinery, or do anything else that could be dangerous until it is clear that no risky side effects are present.

When should I call the clinic?

Call if any of these side effects occur:

  • numbness or tingling
  • ringing in the ears or loss of hearing
  • visual problems
  • signs of allergic reaction:
    • fever or chills
    • rash or hives
    • wheezing
    • trouble breathing - call 911

What else do I need to know?

Your child will need the following tests:

  • yearly hearing and vision tests
  • periodic ferritin blood tests (a blood protein that stores iron)
  • yearly liver biopsy to measure the amount of iron in the liver

This medicine may turn urine red, but this is not a concern.

You and your child should know the names and doses of all medicines he or she is taking. Share this information with anyone involved in your child's care. Please remember to bring the all medicines your child takes when your child comes to the clinic or emergency department.

If your child receives deferoximine at home, always make sure you have enough medicine on hand. Each time you give a dose, check to see how many doses are left. If no doses are left, the pharmacy will need 2 or 3 days to contact the clinic to renew the prescription.

Check the label for the expiration date.

Store all medicines in their original containers and away from direct sunlight, or heat. Do not store the deferoxamine in the refrigerator. Keep it out of children's reach, locked up if possible.

If too much or the wrong kind of medicine is taken, call the Poison Control Center toll-free at 1-800-222-1222. If your child is unconscious or has a seizure, call 911.


This is not specific to your child but provides general information. If you have any questions, please call the clinic or pharmacist.

Last reviewed by Children's pharmacy 8/2015 

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This page is not specific to your child, but provides general information on the topic above. If you have any questions, please call your clinic. For more reading material about this and other health topics, please call or visit Children's Minnesota Family Resource Center library, or visit

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