Adverse reactions to snake antivenom, and their prevention and treatment

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Antivenom is the mainstay of treatment of snakebite envenoming. However, adverse reactions to snake antivenom that is available are common in many parts of the world where snakebite is prevalent. Both acute (anaphylactic or pyrogenic) and delayed (serum sickness type) reactions occur. Acute reactions are usually mild but severe systemic anaphylaxis may develop, often within an hour or so of exposure to antivenom. Serum sickness after antivenom has a delayed onset between 5 and 14 days after its administration. Ultimately, the prevention reactions will depend mainly on improving the quality of antivenom. Until these overdue improvements take place, doctors will have to depend on pharmacological prophylaxis, where the search for the best prophylactic agent is still on-going, as well as careful observation of patients receiving antivenom in preparation for prompt management of acute as well as delayed reactions when they occur.

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