THURSDAY, May 12 (HealthDay News) -- Giving adrenalin to people with snakebites helps prevent severe allergic reactions to antivenom treatment, new research finds.

There's a high rate of acute adverse reactions to antivenom, according to the study.

But giving low-dose adrenaline to patients who have been bitten by a poisonous snake before administering antivenom reduces the risk of severe allergic reactions.

The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Kelaniya in Sri Lanka, involved more than 1,000 people hospitalized for snakebites. Patients were given low-dose adrenaline, promethazine, hydrocortisone or placebo immediately before treatment with antivenom. The treatments were administered alone and in all possible combinations.

The study found that adrenaline reduced severe reactions to the antivenom by 43 percent at one hour and by 38 percent over 48 hours.

Patients given hydrocortisone or promethazine did not experience those same benefits.

The researchers noted the findings are significant given the fact that in countries where snakebites are a major health problem, acute allergic reactions to poor quality antivenoms are common and often fatal.

"The need for concerted action by local health and regulatory authorities, the World Health Organization, and other stakeholders, including technology transfer programs between antivenom manufacturers, to improve the quality of antivenom can not be overemphasized," said the study's authors in a news release. "Until these overdue improvements come about, we have shown that pretreatment with low-dose adrenaline is an effective and safe therapy to prevent acute reactions to antivenom."

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more on snakebite symptoms and treatment.