Parallel infusion of hydrocortisone +/- chlorpheniramine bolus injection to prevent acute adverse reactions to antivenom for snakebites

Med J Aust. 2004 Jan 5;180(1):20-3. doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.2004.tb05768.x.


Objective: To investigate the efficacy of continuous infusion of hydrocortisone with or without chlorpheniramine bolus against early adverse reactions to polyspecific antivenom.

Design and setting: Prospective, double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled trial at General Hospital, Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka.

Subjects: 52 patients with snake envenoming were randomised to receive infusion of hydrocortisone (Group A), hydrocortisone with chlorpheniramine bolus (Group B) or placebo (Group C) during the administration of antivenom.

Intervention: Hydrocortisone 1000 mg in 300 mL of normal saline infusion was started 5 min before and continued for 30 min after antivenom. Chlorpheniramine 10 mg intravenous bolus dose was given 5 min after commencement of antivenom.

Main outcome measures: Occurrence and severity of adverse reactions to antivenom.

Results: Adverse reactions were observed in 80% (12/15) of Group A, 52% (11/21) of Group B, and 81% (13/16) of Group C. Reactions were mild or moderate except in two patients. A significant reduction in the number of adverse reactions was seen in Group B compared with the placebo group (difference, 29 percentage points; 95% CI, 0.2 to 58 percentage points). There was no significant difference between Group A and the placebo group.

Conclusion: Prophylaxis with a parallel hydrocortisone infusion alone is ineffective in reducing the occurrence of acute adverse reaction to antivenom serum, but combining it with chlorpheniramine seems efficacious.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anti-Allergic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Antivenins / adverse effects*
  • Chlorpheniramine / administration & dosage*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / administration & dosage*
  • Hypotension / chemically induced
  • Hypotension / drug therapy
  • Hypotension / prevention & control
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Injections, Intravenous
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Snake Bites / drug therapy*
  • Snake Venoms*
  • Tachycardia / drug therapy
  • Tachycardia / etiology
  • Tachycardia / prevention & control
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Urticaria / chemically induced
  • Urticaria / drug therapy
  • Urticaria / prevention & control


  • Anti-Allergic Agents
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Antivenins
  • Snake Venoms
  • Chlorpheniramine
  • Hydrocortisone