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Sting, Skin

Pharmacist Saves Woman’s Life after Severe Wasp Sting Reaction

wasp-woman-josee-asselinPhoto: Josée Asselin

After being stung by a wasp while gardening and having a life-threatening anaphylatic reaction, a Quebec woman has credited the quick thinking and persistence of her pharmacist for saving her life.

Josée Asselin, who lives in the Laurentian Mountains north of Montreal and works as a landscaper, wasn’t aware she had any allergies before the day she was stung last month. But that day, she immediately began to swell up.

Shortly after that, Asselin told CTV News in early August while motioning to her throat: “It was getting tighter, it was getting harder to breathe.”

She was also itching all over, so Asselin drove to her local pharmacy for help right away. She only thought the pharmacist was going to “give me some Benadryl.”

Instead, after asking her several questions in his office, Ugo Deschênes administered epinephrine using an auto-injector, and Asselin’s symptoms quickly subsided.

What happened next, however, was the key to Asselin avoiding fatal anaphylaxis.

CTV reports that Deschênes insisted she travel by ambulance for treatment at a local hospital, given her allergic reaction to the wasp sting. Asselin, who says she hates hospitals, initially refused, but the health professional stuck to his request, and she eventually was convinced of the need for emergency care.

What happened next would drive home to Asselin the danger she was in that day, and how grateful she is that the pharmacist went the extra distance to make sure she was properly cared for. In the ambulance, “the symptoms came back, but it was way, way worse,” Asselin told CTV. She was having a biphasic (or secondary) reaction, but by giving Asselin more drugs, doctors were able to reverse the reaction and save her life.

“They told me I should thank my pharmacist,” Asselin says, “because he saved my life.”

Since anaphylactic reactions are variable, experts say that anyone who needs to use one should then immediately head to a hospital to be checked by a doctor. The risks of secondary reactions are significant for both adults and children, and the only way to guard against them is by taking quick action, such as Deschênes did on behalf of Asselin.

As well, anyone with a stinging insect allergy is advised to ask an allergist about venom immunotherapy, which has an extremely good track record of effectiveness.

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