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!

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Sheetz “gets it” with my aversion to deathfish. ☺


I hate Lent.  So, did you see my email to Sheetz about having Deathfish now?  I hate Lent.  They wrote back.  I still hate Lent.  I do still like Sheetz though.

Lent sucks. 

https://twitter.com/#!/AiXeLsyD13/status/170619482715340800

But Sheetz is cool:

From: Ashley Sheetz
To: Eric <me@my.emailaddress>
Sent: Friday, February 17, 2012
Subject: RE: The New Shrimp Sub?

Hi Eric,

 I’m very sorry for the delay in getting back to you. I hope you find this information helpful. Let me start off by saying, we do everything in our power to ensure a pleasant visit for all of our customers. This includes keeping strict guidelines which include, but are not limited to, designating one fryer vat only for shrimp in order to help minimize the possibility of cross-contamination. Employees handling food are instructed to change gloves and wipe down the frying area after seafood orders are fulfilled.

 If your condition is life threatening, it may be in your best interest to avoid our M•T•O® products in the event that residue from the shrimp may come in contact with those food items considered safe. Our M•T•GO!® products are pre-made, individually packaged and manufactured under strict allergen monitoring programs; therefore, they would be a better choice for someone with severe reactions to certain allergens.  All allergens in our M•T•GO!® products are identified directly on the packaging label.

 Please keep in mind that our seafood menu is a limited time offer that we make available to our customers during Lent. Shrimp and fish items will only be served in our stores until the 25th of April. I apologize again for any inconvenience.

 Sincerely,
Ashley Sheetz

At least they “get it”.  I’d love to know if employees are told why they’re to use gloves & separate fryers or they’re just told to.  Not that I doubt the company’s convictions… just that I’ve been trained on things in the past where people have obviously had no idea or understanding of what they’re doing… they just know what they were told to do.

I wrote back…

From: Eric <me@my.email.address>
To: Ashley Sheetz
Sent: Monday, February 20, 2012
Subject: Re: The New Shrimp Sub?

Hi Ashley,

No problem on the response time.  I really appreciate that you took the time to reply at all, and love the honesty & frankness with which you’ve answered my questions.  The instructions to use gloves & wipe down food prep areas are great to hear for people like me.  There are a bunch of us out here… I just happen to be one of the more vocal & inquisitive ones.  More restaurants are recognizing that food allergies are on the rise.  Peanut & wheat allergies are hitting the news more… but there are more of us out here with special dietary needs.  It’s easy to understand not being able to eat something, but the gravity of eating that thing is sometimes lost… and cross contamination seems to be the thing that’s hardest to convey.  I’m sure you can imagine it’s difficult to place your trust (& potentially your life) into someone else’s hands.

I’m glad that Sheetz has an understanding of allergens!  It’s good to hear that the procedures are in place to minimize cross-contamination.  Hopefully the gravity of the situation is passed along in training.  Do a Google image search for Anaphylactic shock some time.  It’s not a pretty sight.

I hope the meatball sliders are still available after April 25th!  Ha ha.  I haven’t tried them yet, but they look AWESOME.  Perhaps I’ll stick to the M•T•GO!® products for now.  I do really enjoy the pre-made turkey sandwiches.

I see more & more Sheetz popping up…  you guys ought to build in Bridgeville… it’s right off on Rte. 79, and you can put a hurting on the local Get·Go.

Thanks again for your time, & answers!

-Eric
.seitilibasid gninrael fo nuf ekam ot ynnuf ton yllaer s’tI

Then I wrote back again…

From: Eric <me@my.email.address.>
To: Ashley Sheetz
Sent: Monday, February 20, 2012
Subject: Re: The New Shrimp Sub?

Hello Again Ashley,

Sorry for the barrage of emails…  I just had one more suggestion.  Perhaps on the signage promoting any fish/shellfish items next year during Lent (if/when they should happen to return), you could make a note of the separate fryers, and to maybe ask a manager or person in the kitchen about your allergies?  Better yet, a button on the touchpanel alerting the staff to your allergy & having it print on your order/receipt would be stellar.  It would prove you guys to be innovators when it comes to dealing with food allergies!  Acknowledging that there’s an issue goes such a long way with us food allergy folks.

Rock on!
-Eric

.seitilibasid gninrael fo nuf ekam ot ynnuf ton yllaer s’tI

Hope I’m not too annoying.  Now I’m hungry for Sheetz.

English: Interior of a Super Sheetz in Altoona...

SHEETZ!

Sheetz – New Shrimp Sub ☹


Oh how I hate Lent and the inevitable accompanying seasonal fish/shellfish/seafood specials.  Sheetz got in on the act early this year.  Please, restaurants that don’t already serve deathfish… Stop adding seabugs to your menu!

https://twitter.com/#!/AiXeLsyD13/status/169082906206158848
https://twitter.com/#!/sheetz/status/169153004728094720
https://twitter.com/#!/AiXeLsyD13/status/169154340731367425

Of course, I also had to send off an email or 20.  I sent this to quite a few Sheet-related email addresses that I had in my address book or found on the web, and I think also through their contact form.

From: Eric <me@my.email.address>
To: Feedback Sheetz Inc. ; sheetzweb @sheetz.com ;
Cc: Lisa Claar
Sent: Monday, February 13, 2012
Subject: The New Shrimp Sub?


Hello Friends,

I write to you today with a sad face: ☹

“Why,” you ask?  Yesterday I stopped a Sheetz just south of Scottdale on my way down Rte. 119 towards Uniontown, all excited to get some delicious made to order goodness, and was stopped dead in my tracks when I got to the magical touchscreen.  I saw signs advertising a new Shrimp sub.

Why, my friends?  Why?

I understand the importance of having an evolving and diverse menu.  I get that you don’t want to grow stagnant.  Sheetz has been a safe-haven for me in dining for years.  I have written to you in the past many times over different issues, and 99% of the time, it is high-praise my friends.  Years ago when in Altoona, a friend & I even stopped to have our pictures taken in front of the Sheetz HQ sign.  I speak of your genius touch-screen ordering and delicious “gas station” food to anyone who will listen.

My problem today extends from that fact that I am severely allergic to shellfish my friends.  This includes crustaceans and mollusks… things like Shrimp, crab, lobster, clams, oysters, mussels, geoduck, calamari, scallops, snails, and several other “delicious” sea-bugs and slimy things.

If the disgusting bug-like sea creatures are battered & deep-fried in the same fryer that also cooks my french fries, cheese sticks, or chicken tenders, and I happen to partake of said otherwise non-deadly foods… it sends me quite immediately into something called Anaphylactic shock.  Basically, that involves itching, redness, swelling, and the closing of airways.

Needless to say, I don’t generally like to cap off my dining experiences with Anaphylaxis.  Yes, I have an Epi-Pen, but it’s a last resort & really only buys time until an ambulance can arrive & get me to a hospital.  In order to dodge the excitement of choking while en-route to a hopefully life-saving facility, I generally stay away from any places that serve shellfish.  Sheetz has been a go-to safe place for me for many years.  Now, I have to cross you off of my list?

Cross-contamination issues are huge.  If someone assembles a shrimp sub, then makes me a turkey or meatball sub without washing their hands or changing gloves…  Hello, ambulance ride!  I’m not doubting the training & cleanliness of your employees, but I’m sure you can imagine that I can’t take placing my health & safety in someone else’s hands lightly.

Sadly, Sheetz will have to be off of my safe list for now.  May I ask you to reconsider this deathfish offering in the future?  I believe you had a seafood sub that I wrote to you about a few years ago.  Are deadly seabugs really a necessary item?  Do they sell that well?

Places that have added deathfish to their menu over the years where there was once none include, Quiznos, Taco Bell (it’s gone now), Dairy Queen (it’s gone from most of them now), Texas Roadhouse, Famous Dave’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, Bob Evans (it’s gone now), and many more that I can’t remember now.  Pretty soon I’ll only be able to eat at McDonald’s… until they introduce McLobster country-wide.  I don’t want to be the guy that only eats Big Macs and eventually has to have a wall knocked out by Maury Povich or Jerry Springer so I can exit my house.

I write to you on behalf of the shellfish-allergic out there that just want a place to eat with safe food that we know will continue to remain safe.

I beg you to take this off of your menu, and leave it off.  Please?  I walked out of Sheetz yesterday with my head hung low & after not purchasing anything at all.  I also needed gas & drinks but left in shock & had to get them elsewhere.  My wife didn’t even say anything to try and console me.  She could feel my disappointment as we walked silently to the car.  Only after I started the car & pulled out of the parking lot did I let out a string of expletives that only revealed the proverbial tip of the iceberg to my frustration.

Thank you today for your time.  I hope you take my thoughts into consideration, and are eventually able to pull the deathfish from your menu, and drain/clean/refill all of the fryers.  There are more like me out here.  Perhaps they’re less vocal & dramatic, but the shellfish-allergic do exist.  We have feelings too.  Feelings that are crushed when new seafood offerings don menus everywhere.  We slip into a depressed food-related funk when Lent rolls around with all of its horrible seafood specials and limited time offerings.  Are we to live in a social hole & prepare all of our meals at home?  Please, don’t condemn us!

I thank you for your time and apologize for my need to complain.  I hate to come off as a whiner or “poor me”, but something just had to be said.  I look forward to your thoughts on the issue, I know you value all customer input.  You have a great company, I just don’t want to die while eating at Sheetz.  It might be bad press for you guys.
Pleadingly Yours,

-Eric

.seitilibasid gninrael fo nuf ekam ot ynnuf ton yllaer s’tI

And, no one wrote back.  Well, I did get this

From: <customer_focus@sheetz.com>
To: me@my.email.address
Sent: Monday, February 13, 2012
Subject: Thanks, Your message has been received

Dear Eric,

We just wanted to let you know that we received your message and notify you that it is being directed to the proper individuals for review.

At Sheetz, customer opinions are always appreciated. Our mission is to ‘provide customers with fast and friendly service, quality products in clean and convenient locations’. Your comments help to ensure you receive only the highest possible service expected from Sheetz.

If your comment or question requires special attention, you can expect to get a more specific response back in the near future.

Thank you.

But, after the Tweet above divulging the sheetzlive@sheetz.com email address, I re-sent it with this…

From: Eric <me@my.email.address>
To: “sheetzlive@sheetz.com” <sheetzlive@sheetz.com>
Sent: Monday, February 13, 2012
Subject: Re: The New Shrimp Sub?

Hello Friends,

Perhaps my email below was sent too soon!  I see via Twitter that you have separate fryers for seafood?  I’m interested to know what other safe-handling practices & training are involved?  Do employees know why there are separate friers?  Are they taught about cross-contamination?

Is the deadly sea-bug sub a limited time only deal?

I’m a blogger, one of the issues I blog about is food allergies…  Would you like me to spread the safe-handling word?

Rock on!
-Eric
.seitilibasid gninrael fo nuf ekam ot ynnuf ton yllaer s’tI

…And got this as a response:

From: Ashley Sheetz
To: Eric Carroll <eric_aixelsyd@yahoo.com>
Sent: Monday, February 13, 2012
Subject: RE: The New Shrimp Sub?

Hi Eric,

 Is the email below something you had sent to this address as well? I am working on getting in touch with our Food Manager to answer all of your questions, so I will be in touch as soon as I have all the necessary information for you.

Sincerely,

Ashley Sheetz

I wrote back again, but haven’t heard anything further so far…

From: Eric <me@my.email.address>
To: Ashley Sheetz
Sent: Monday, February 13, 2012
Subject: Re: The New Shrimp Sub?

Hello Ashley,

I had sent it this morning to an older Sheetz customer-service address that I had, and submitted it online via the contact form on the website.  Thank you for your ridiculously quick reply, and your Twitter team is awesome.

Thanks!
-Eric
.seitilibasid gninrael fo nuf ekam ot ynnuf ton yllaer s’tI

SHEETZ

Dirtbag Rob & Eric AiXeLsyD outside of Sheetz Corporate Office some time in 2004

Dirtbag Rob & Eric AiXeLsyD outside of Sheetz Corporate Office some time in 2004

So, that’s where it stands until I get further replies from Sheetz.  I’m interested to see what they have to say.  A separate fryer is a great start… but it’s also important that employees understand why there’s a separate fryer, so they don’t mix items up, or only use 1 late at night or while cleaning the other.

I’m still hoping that they remove it form the menu & keep it off.  I’d sure feel a hell of a lot safer if it was nowhere in the kitchen.

Still taking donations for the Food Allergy Walk


90% towards my goal of $500!

90% towards my goal of $500!

That’s right, Bethany & I are still taking donations for the Food Allergy Walk in  Pittsburgh.  It’s happening this Sunday, Sept. 18th at 11:00 am.  You can make a secure online tax-deductible donation for either of us, to help us meet our prospective goals, or you can hook us up with a check made out to FAAN.

Support me!
Support me!

Just click the blue “Support Me” button under each of our photos on our respective profiles to donate!

You can read my older posts about the walk for more info:

If you’re following the “Celebrity Endorsement” thing, Andrew Stockey did eventually contact me & agree to help get the word out on WTAE.com.  I still haven’t’ seen anything there yet.

Interestingly, Qdoba & Chick-fil-A also said they’d donate something, yet they haven’t online yet anyway.  I’m going to have to remind them.

You can also read all of my Food Allergy related posts if interested in learning more about food allergies form an outspoken crazy blogger.

More from the Food Allergy Walk Facebook Page

The Walk in Pittsburgh will feature lots activities, such as: face painting, balloon artist, trackless train, mad science and inflatables. We will have a musical performance by Kyle Dine and be joined by Pittsburgh Panthers mascot ROC.

We look forward to once again welcoming Sally Wiggin and Stephen Cropper. Following the Walk, will be Q&A session with allergists from AGH and UPMC who have volunteered their time. Rep. Matt Smith will join us to share information about the new EpiPen laws in PA.

You can get one of these limited edition T-shirts for donating $50 or more, thanks to Erin “Ernie” Payne:

King Krab Orange Ernie and the Berts T-Shirt
Special Edition King Krab Orange Ernie and the Berts T-Shirt

Sponsor me for FAAN’s Pittsburgh Food Allergy Walk 2011?


Did you read my last blog about the food allergy walk?  OK, so you can officially donate to me now, via this link:

FAAN Thermometer

FAAN

I decided for the 1st time to just sign up as an individual, maybe do a team next year.  I believe we’ll be signing my wife Bethany up for the walk too, she’ll be walking with me if you’d like to donate to her too or instead of me.  (…Perhaps more well deserved for putting up with my crazy ass.)  I’ll post her URL as soon as we have one.

I would appreciate any donations to FAAN, be it a $1 or $100.  Please don’t feel obligated or pressured to donate.  I realize that there are many many other charities/causes out there worth of donations.  I want you to think about donating your time and or money to those that you hold dear.

FOOD☠ALLERGIES

FOOD ☠ ALLERGIES

For me personally, as far as food allergies go… just raising awareness of the seriousness and validity of serious food allergies is as important as research for a cure.  People need to realize that it’s a growing concern, and it will need to be addressed more and more in schools, restaurants, grocery stores, and homes everywhere.

I’m looking forward to the event & meeting other like-minded food-allergy Yinzers.  Thanks for reading, considering, & possibly donating!

As an added bonus, Erin (a.k.a. Ernie of Ernie and the Berts) has pledged to provide some special-edition Ernie and the Berts T-shirts to the first 10 people who donate $50 or more, if you’re interested in that sort of thing.  They’ll be the new design, but a different limited orange deathfish color run.

Just email Erin at ernie@ernieandtheberts.com to tell him you donated & are interested in a T-shirt.

Food Allergy Walk Pittsburgh – Sept. 18th, 2011!


I read about this a while ago, and kind of put it in the back of my mind, and now it’s snuck up on me again. Being a food allergy advocate (or annoyance depending on your point of view) of sorts, I really ought to go to this.

I was excited to see this article today via the Food Allergy DailyFAAN Walk for Food Allergy: Moving Toward A Cure Coming Back to Pittsburgh

This especially caught my attention:

The Walk is a non-competitive 2-mile course and participation is free. Families can enjoy samples from allergen-free food vendors, music and children’s activities. Joining us this year will be Sally Wiggin (WTAE-TV), and singer and songwriter Kyle Dine (http://kyledine.com), to educate and entertain with his songs about food allergies.

FAAN Walk For Food Allergy Logo

FoodAllergyWalk.org

Kyle Dine rules! Kyle is also a soldier in the #FoodAllergyDudeArmy (a covert special ops branch of the #FoodAllergyMomArmy) on Twitter.  Of course, Sally Wiggin is also a local legend.  The walk is taking place at Hartwood Acres.

At any rate… I know there are many many walks for many many reasons, but I see this as an opportunity to do something other than whine about food allergies on the internet and send restaurants annoying (and hopefully entertaining) emails about deathfish.

The article above also drops these fascinating facts:

Food allergy is the leading cause of anaphylaxis outside the hospital setting and the CDC reports that food allergies result in over 300,000 ambulatory care visits each year among children. Eight foods account for 90 percent of all allergic reactions in the U.S.: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (walnuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios, pecans, etc.), wheat, soy, fish, and shellfish. Food allergy afflicts one in 25 Americans overall, and one in 17 under age 3.

The official FAAN page for Pittsburgh is here:  FoodAllergyWalk.org | 2011 Walk in Pittsburgh, PA

I’ll sign up to walk as an individual, or I can put together a team if anyone’s interested.  The individual suggested goal is $300.  The suggested team goal is $1,500.00.

So, here’s where I ask for help.  Does anyone want to donate, or walk with me?

Think “Team Deathfish” sounds like a good name?