The itch that wouldn’t die.


Black & White Cat Scratching EarSo last Friday or Saturday, my back started itching.  It wasn’t a bug-bite itch.  It didn’t seem like a dry skin itch.  The closest thing I could equate it to is that feeling when you get a haircut and those stray clippered hairs that they couldn’t blow away with the hair-dryer or brush away with that tickling brush jab at you until you can get home & get a proper shower.  I just assumed it was dry skin, & asked my lovely wife to hook me up with some of the plethora of lotions in the house (ask me about her Bath & Bodyworks addiction some time).  She graciously applied some non-smelly Aveeno & confirmed that there wasn’t a rash or anything.

At least, that’s what we thought.

Cat getting back scratchedThrough the week it didn’t seem to subside.  I used some Benadryl one night to go to sleep, and we switched to Eucerin and then to some weird stinky pink (and ridiculously expensive) Aveeno Oatmeal lotion.  I Googled “itch without rash” to some benign and some alarming results.  It’s never good to search for afflictions online because common symptoms of everything lead to you dying of some unheard of horrible disease.

The itch had spread to my chest eventually, by again we couldn’t see any kind of rash or hives.  My skin was obviously hydrated to the touch thanks to the lotion(s), so dry skin couldn’t be the answer.  I was starting to think it might even be nerves.  It wasn’t constant, it’s just intermittent & weird.

We figured it couldn’t be too horrible as the wife didn’t “catch” anything, so it probably wasn’t some gross fungus or bugs or anything you’d see in a sci-fi movie.

Cat trying to scratch ear through coneI finally broke down & went to Med Express on Saturday.  (I hate missing work for doctor’s appointments, and Med Express was so easy to get in & out.)  The nurse-practitioner there did see a rash under her light… called it “micro-” something “dermatitis”, & the printout they gave me says “contact dermatitis“.  She gave me a steroid to take for 5 days, & said to keep using the Eucerin.  As weird as it sounds I was relieved that it was an actual rash & not all in my head or anything.  She also recommended Claritin instead of Benadryl as it apparently has less knock-you-out type side effects.

I’m still a little itchy occasionally, but I can hopefully see an end in sight.  Hope the Prednisone works!

Cat scratching another cat's back...She said I might be allergic to something, and may have to start some detective work.  If it was laundry detergent or fabric softener, it would most likely be on my thighs too… and it’s not yet.  Plus, we’re on the end of the detergent bottle & fabric softener sheet box… I would have thought it would have affected me by now.  I did try some new generic soap, but it stunk (literally & latherally) … so I stopped using it.  I don’t think that was it.  I don’t have any new shirts that I wore that I can remember.  It’s quite maddening.  I wonder if it was something I ate or a medicine… but I’ve been on my stomach stuff for a while now, & there’s nothing new.

Fat cat can't scratch his itchy ear...Has this happened to any of my other food allergy friends or their family?  I have little to no experience with allergic rashes… other than a minor itch caused by wool… but I generally stay away from wool clothing or blankets… and my (minor) allergies to wool, cats, & dogs for some reason tend to give me sniffles not a rash.  And with shellfish, I guess there’s a rash, but the whole throat-closing thing kind of eclipses that.

Any advice on how to find the culprit?  (Especially if it should return, provided it actually does clear-up.)  Any advice on home remedies or alternate things too sooth an itch that might work better than the Eucerin & Claritin?

Many thanks in advance!

Aller-G’s


…Saw some more cool tweets about allergies today, again from pnutfreeworld.  They all caught my eye, and put me in a slightly better mood.  I’m not allergic to peanuts, but a lot of other people out there are.  I’m allergic to shellfish, and all of us that suffer from severe allergies need to stick together… so I’ve been following allergy issues on the web more & more.  I thought I might share with the hopes that if you’re out there suffering form allergies, and you happen to stumble upon this blog… you’ll know that there’s a bunch of us out here… or if you have a friend or family member that suffers form allergies, this may offer you some insight into their world.

The first one that jumped out at me today, was this one…

Law Makes Allergies a Restaurant’s Responsibility, Too – A Massachusetts Regulation Requires Restaurants to Get Food Allergy Training

If you saw my blog the other day about the two thrilling tweets, this would be the conclusion.  Apparently it passed! I know… this is odd for me to celebrate.  Normally, I’m anti- anything that has to do with making more rules & regulations or expanding government.  But, this just hits too close for me on a personal level to not be behind it.  I just hope they go about it efficiently.

Basically, the law says that if you’re a customer, you need to speak up and inform the restaurant of your allergy, and if you’re a restaurant, it’s your responsibility to have all of your employees trained and certified on allergy safety and cross contamination issues.  I realize that this is not a fool-proof system, and that I don’t even live near Massachusetts, but it gives me hope that other states may one day follow suit.  I now have something concrete to write about to my local politicians… and say “hey, look… they’re doing something that makes sense”.

Sadly, the legislation doesn’t seem to point to chain restaurants… like Subway, where cross-contamination with the seafood sub is a major issue.  It does, however, give me hope that I will someday be able to dine in an upscale restaurant with no abnormal concern for my safety.

If you’ve read my trifecta of tirades on the food industry & cleanliness & allergy issues, (That’s 1, 2, & 3) then you know that there are others out there who think that implementing such training would not only be impractical, but it would be just not done at all or treated like a joke from all concerned parties.  I really, really hope that’s not the case once this is put into effect.  I would hope that this would be an issue that’s handled quite seriously… it is, after all, a life-or-death issue.

The second article’s title made me think, “damn right”…

Food on the road can be a minefield – Taking steps to minimize the risks from allergies

Now, this is from a Canadian publication, and they seem to have a lot more government regulation already… but I don’t really support banning things like they seem to want to do.  Education and training is what we need. This article is a nice list of websites and literature that you can look to for support in dining out while traveling abroad.

I’m going to have to look into these sites a little more, and see if there’s anything worth noting or sharing.

There are two not mentioned in the article that look promising… but they really need their databases updated if they’re going to be useful at all:  Can I Eat There? & Shellfish Free

I’m also hoping UrbanSpoon.com one day makes note of more than just gluten-allergy friendly restaurants… and picks up on the big 8.

This last one is cool on a geek front as well as an allergy front…

Peanut Allergy Blocker On The Way

The concept just blows my mind.  I’ve said before… even if I was given a cure tomorrow, I doubt I’d ever even want shellfish at this point… but at least I’d be able to eat food off of the same grill or out of the same fryer without hesitation or anaphylactic repercussions.

I’ve read a lot about the causes of allergies… and asked a lot of questions of doctors.  It’s amazing how much they don’t know… but this article is very enlightening, and it’s all broken down so it’s easy to understand:

Dr Suphioglu said that the work being done by his team also has potential benefits for all allergy sufferers. “Taking a step further back in how an allergic reaction occurs, we are also carrying out research into how we can prevent the allergen specific antibodies from being produced at all.

“In an allergic reaction, the body produces cell signalling molecules called cytokines to trigger the production of antibodies. If we can neutralise the cytokines involved with the allergic reaction, we can potentially block or reduce the production of the antibodies. In recent preliminary results we have successfully identified a substance that interacts with one of the key cytokines involved in the allergic reaction. We are now assessing the capacity of this substance to block or reduce antibody production in the allergic reaction.”

Dr Suphioglu is confident that his team’s allergy research work will result in better treatments for allergy sufferers. “I believe our research into understanding the molecular and allergenic properties of major peanut allergens together with our work on how to prevent or inhibit allergic reactions will contribute to the development of safer and more effective methods for peanut allergy diagnosis, prevention and treatment as well as benefit sufferers of other allergies.”

I’ve read a bunch of articles pertaining to the links between asthma and dust mite allergies and their relation to the severe shellfish allergies.  It’s really interesting stuff.  I hope all of these studies merge in the near future, and perhaps there will be an end to all my allergy-related rants!

Pizza Hut’s Intestinal Warfare


If you’ve ever heard me on the subject of Pizza Hut, it all boils down to this…  Pizza Hut = Gastrointestinal Distress.  I have no idea why.  I’ve heard the same thing from many other people when the subject is raised.  I know I’ve gotten into it on facebook not too long ago too.  I enjoy plenty of other pizzas from other chains & from the local shops, all with no digestional discomfort.

I wrote to Pizza Hut a long time ago… and this is all I had to say…

Hello Fine Friends at Pizza Hut,

Contrary to the belief held by your delicious pizzas, my intestines are not a waterslide.  Can you please instruct the   to not use my digestive system as a waterslide park?  It would be very much appreciated!

Gotta go!
-ERiC AiXeLsyD
world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com

Well, their answers back then were quite dissatisfying, and when I contacted them again via snail mail, my query went wholly unanswered.

Perhaps that’s why I waged another campaign of emails with a vengeance.  I looked up several Pizza Hut and Yum! Brands executives online, found the syntaxt of their respective companies’ email addresses, and fired off a few notes… as well as filled out the webform once or twice or so.

from ERiC AiXeLsyD world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com
to Scott.Bergren@yum.com
date Wed, Jan 20, 2010 at 8:28 AM
subject Intestinal Warfare?
mailed-by gmail.com

Hello,

This isn’t about a specific incident, but a general observation.  There was nowhere in the webform to indicate that, so I had to seek out some email addresses. I find it quite rude that there’s no general inquiry area, or a contact email address.

As for the purpose of my missive…

I would like to know why your pizza treats my intestines like a water park.  Every time I enjoy your delicious slices of pie, I feel like I have swallowed a hurricane that’s trying to escape via my …well, I’ll leave that to your imagination.

I can assure you that I’m not lactose intolerant, but perhaps I’m allergic to something in your sauce or pie?  I don’t seem to have this problem with any other pizza places… chains or local.

Have any other customers written to you regarding gastrointestinal distress of any sort?  My cousin who works in a Pizza Hut in Ohio swears that they use a different sauce there, devoid of the same effects.

Thanks for your time!
-ERiC

Pizza Hut Allergen InformationThe email address experiment seemed to be to no avail.  I’ve either been blocked by IT, spam filters, or wholly ignored.  But, it looks like I did get a bite off of the webform…

from Dave Kronenwetter Davekronenwetter@aurorahuts.com
to world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com
cc Ed Holt edholt@aurorahuts.com
date Thu, Jan 21, 2010 at 9:16 AM
subject Pizza Hut Incident Eric Aixelsyd
mailed-by aurorahuts.com

Dear Mr. Aixelsyd,

I was sorry to hear about your experience at the local Pizza Hut. Let me assure you that the ingredients used here in Pennsylvania are the same quality ingredients that are used throughout the country. In most cases our ingredients come from the same suppliers. The following website lists possible allergen & sensitive ingredients : http://www.pizzahut.com/Files/pdf/Updated%20PH%20Allergen%20List%2004.17.09.pdf This website includes our nutritional information: http://www.pizzahut.com/Files/PDF/Pizza%20Hut%20Nutrition%20Info%2010.12.09.pdf. Please feel free to contact me with any additional questions you may have and I will handle them personally

Sincerely,
Dave Kronenwetter

Area Coach
Aurora Huts LLC
412-897-6775
davekronenwetter@aurorahuts.com

Interesting.  Well, at least now I have two good contacts… but perhaps my query will take a more serous and inquisitive turn.

Upon viewing the interesting pdf linked to by Mr. Kronenwetter, I see that a bunch of items there are marked “prepared in common equipment and therefore may contain allergens” in the shellfish column.  I’m not sure exactly why this is, because I don’t recall any shellfish on the Pizza Hut menu, and especially since the items marked are oddly random and specific…  Garlic Parmesan wings, and no others… three different pizza sauces… 3 of the 4 Tuscani pastas, and breadsticks.

I can only assume that these things arrive at Pizza Hut pre-made, and may come into contact with potential allergens at the manufacturing/processing/packaging facility?  Oh well, perhaps I can figure out a way to address this in a goofy manner, yet still yield some positive and enlightening results.  I know that many people suffer from the pizza hut digestion demon, and I really hope it’s not just some sanitary/kitchen issues.

Perhaps this too must move into snail mail territory.  For some reason, most companies seem to treat a real live letter with more respect than an email.

Yum!ballsI thought of Yum! Brands today as we watched Spaceballs…  In the characters Kernel Sandurz and Pizza the Hutt – both now Yum! Brands brands.  Would it be wrong of me to write to them and tell them that Mel Brooks is working on a new special edition of Spaceballs with more scenes, digitally inserted characters and creatures, and better re-vamped special effects… and that they’d like to include more Yum! Brands characters… like Captain Long John Silver and Taco Bell, and some droid sidekicks, A & W?