When first exposed to drugs containing proteins of other species, individuals showcase the signs and symptoms after about 7 – 10 days. When exposed for the second time, the symptoms appear pretty fast within 1 – 4 days . The signs and symptoms of serum sickness include the following:
At the preliminary level, a complete medical history including drugs taken by the individual is gathered. This baseline information provides an idea about serum sickness. To further confirm the condition, urine test is done which would reveal presence of blood and proteins. In addition, blood test would indicate development of inflammation of the blood vessels or presence of immune complexes.
The prognosis of the condition is usually favorable and with prompt treatment symptoms generally resolve within few days.
Complications result when individuals are exposed to the same drugs or antiserum that had caused serum sickness in the past. The possible complications of serum sickness include the following:
Reaction to certain class of drugs containing proteins is the major cause of serum sickness. Amongst all drugs, penicillin is known to be the most common causative factor. The following types of drugs that contain protein components derived from other species are known to play a role in causation of the disease:
In addition to the above mentioned drugs, snake venom antiserum also triggers the development of serum sickness.
In the condition of serum sickness, the immune system of the body behaves in a different manner and falsely regards the protein in the antiserum as invaders (especially from animal sources) and attacks it . Such an event gives rise to various symptoms. Insect stings from bees and mosquitoes have been casually documented to cause serum sickness among afflicted individuals .
The incidence of serum sickness has undergone a steady decline because of the modern refining processes in the preparation of antiserum and drugs . In addition, it also gets worth mentioning that the dosage is also important for triggering serum sickness. It has been estimated that 10% of individuals who were administered 10 mL of tetanus antitoxin exhibited symptoms of serum sickness. On the other hand, almost all patients developed the condition when given higher doses of more than 80 mL antitoxin.
In the condition of serum sickness, the immune system of the body regards the proteins present in the antiserum as invaders and attacks them. As a result, the body produces antibodies which in turn combine with the protein to form immune complexes. These immune complexes enter the blood vessels and generate several inflammatory responses that give rises to an array of associated conditions .
So far no guidelines have been provided to prevent the onset of serum sickness. However, the recurrence of the condition can be prevented by avoiding those medications that had caused serum sickness in the past. Individuals should inform the health care provider if they are sensitive to antiserum. In such cases, the individual is temporarily desensitized for that particular antiserum. Before administration of the antiserum, a skin test should be conducted to check for sensitivity towards the serum.
Serum sickness is a type of allergic reaction experienced by individuals in response to certain medications containing proteins or antiserum given to combat specific disease conditions. It is considered as a type III hypersensitivity reaction exhibited when the body is given drugs containing protein .
The onset of the condition is delayed by 7 – 10 days after the initial exposure. However, if the individual is again exposed to the allergic components then the symptoms begin to show effect within 1 – 4 days. The condition was first described in the year 1906 by Clemens Von Pirquet and Bela Schick.
Serum sickness is a condition characterized by abnormal behavior of the immune system in response to certain drugs containing protein of other species or antiserum. Antiserum is the liquid part of the blood containing antibodies that is administered to individuals for protection against effects of poison or germs. Serum sickness is also known as type III hypersensitivity reaction.
Penicillin is the most common cause of serum sickness. In addition, drugs prescribed for treating depression, products that contain aspirin, diuretics such as thiazides and other medications are also known to cause serum sickness. Individuals who are given antiserum after snake bite or an attack of rabies also exhibit symptoms of allergic reaction.
Symptoms of serum sickness usually develop after 7 – 10 days of initial exposure. Affected individuals complain of skin rashes that develop at the site of injection, fever accompanied by feeling of malaise and body ache. Individuals also experience diarrhea, abdominal pain, flushing, wheezing, itching and inflammation of lymph nodes.
Diagnosis of serum sickness begins with a past medical history which would also contain information about the drugs taken by the individual. To further confirm the diagnosis, blood and urine tests are also carried out. If urine tests reveal presence of blood and proteins, and blood tests shows immune complexes, then the diagnosis of serum sickness is confirmed.
The medications that caused serum sickness are immediately stopped. Thereafter, corticosteroid creams are given for relieving the rash and NSAIDs are administered for relieving joint pain. Individuals with kidney disorders should be given NSAIDs with caution. In addition to these, nutritional supplements may also be given as supportive therapy to strengthen the immune system.