Got "gassed" in Milan...not the good "gassed"

Discussion in 'Hangar Talk' started by LongRoadBob, Oct 26, 2017.

  1. LongRoadBob

    LongRoadBob Line Up and Wait

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    So, here's the deal.

    My wife and I are in Milan, and not to go into too much detail, we had to switch rooms, etc, and ended up with a small room.

    So last night my wife didn't smell it but I definitely smelled ammonia and assumed housekeeping used it to clean. There is another smell that we had both in the first room and the new smaller room, but it was not ammonia.

    Woke up in the morning, and my wife did notice it, but she hasn't been around ammonia as much as I have. We spent the day in the city. Came back to the hotel room (which had been made up since we left) and it reeked of ammonia. My wife was in agreement. Very bad. I am studying for me pilots license exam, and went down to the "bar" which wasn't open, to study. My wife stayed in the room with the window open and the door out to the hallway open. I was sick of complaining to them about the noise in the first room, etc. and just felt, "ok, they used too much ammonia...well air it out".

    She came down to the bar, and since it was closed after a while I wanted a beer. I had one in the minibar in the room, and luckily I didn't ask my wife to go get it, went myself.

    She had said the smell was a little better but when I opened the door it was really bad. I went in, and leaned down and opened the minibar (refrigerator door, like a normal door) and WHAM... I got hit with a gas that caused me to stop being able to breathe. I'm kinda proud of my survival instincts, I immediately shut the door, not able to breathe and gagging I made my way into the bathroom, and splashed cold water on my face, but still could not breathe. When I say "could not breathe" I mean I was acutely aware of a lack of oxygen, and could neither breathe in...or out even. Could. Not. Breathe.

    After really thinking I ight die here, slowly I could almost breathe in, or out...slowly it started getting better, and I made my way out to the hallway.

    I still thought it was the housekeeping folk, but made my way down (coughing, burping, feeling weird and u well) to the front desk and told the desk clerk "come with me" he looked very alarmed at how I looked. I still couldn't actually talk well, I still wasn't breathing normally. In fits and bursts I told him of what happened, housekeeping came up and said "we don't use ammonia". It was then clear there was a bad leak in the fridge, the minibar. The gasses had accumulated in the chamber and when I leaned down to open the door, being lighter than air, they hit me like a sledgehammer.

    They removed the fridge from the room, and the poor woman from housekeeping apparently opened the door in a more open area and gagged, eyes watering, etc.

    They STILL tried to get us to keep the room, claiming the smell was "gone" but I wasn't having any of it. I literally thought I was going to die. It stil, reeked of ammonia. Later they also said (and I think this is true after having read up on ammonia) that it was the freon gas that gagged and choked me.
    They were very apologetic, but still weren't getting it. But yah, I think it was freon that was strangling me.

    Sorry if this is long, and/or badly written. We got a new room, and it is now seven hours after the incident, and I still smell ammonia and feel weird. There must have been ammonia in there too, it is a very distinctive odor, but I am sire it was both I was subjected to.

    I stated very clearly that I expect them to fill out an accident report on this. I want a receipt. Also I asked them to call a doctor and find out if there can be damages that show up later. My wife and I went out to eat, and it really seems for now I have lost my sense of taste. I smell ammonia all the time still.
    I tried "inhaling" water, from the tap, and also it makes the smell of ammonia be worse, at least at first. Funny taste in my mouth too.

    I'm not out to sue, but I'm also not about to just go home and hope it all goes ok. Other than an accident report, not sure what I should or shouldn't do here.

    I'm still a little in shock and still tarting ammonia. Idea? I sure hope I didn't lose IQ points, I didn't think I was dumb, but don't feel like giving away brain power.

    I feel pretty much ok, no problems breathing, but just that smell won't go away. I actually don't think I am damaged beyond repair, but not sure of scars on the lungs, etc, that can affect me later.
     
  2. Matthew

    Matthew Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Isn't there a poison control hotline of some sort? I'm not sure what you were breathing, but you might need to get checked out.

    Freon and ammonia are both used as refrigerants. I don't know what is or isn't used in the US vs Europe.
     
  3. Ryanb

    Ryanb En-Route PoA Supporter

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    Breathing in high levels of ammonia can cause lung damage and respiratory issues.
    If the odor was as bad as you describe and you’re still feeling side effects from this in a day or two, I would certainly get checked out. Sounds like this hotel needs to be decommissioned.
     
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  4. Lachlan

    Lachlan Cleared for Takeoff

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    First off, congrats on the long solo XC to Italy. I know it was a solo flight because your wife didn’t log any PIC time. Next, stop posting here and read up on ammonia inhalation in the italianet. It’s not as bad for you as drinking 100LL, but worse than overeating a bowl full of coleslaw. Get well soon.
     
  5. mscard88

    mscard88 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Putin. Has to be.

    Seriously hope you get well and have no long term effects. Oh I'm not joking about Putin. :)
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2017
  6. Let'sgoflying!

    Let'sgoflying! Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    Sure its not a body in the wall?
     
  7. GRG55

    GRG55 En-Route

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    As noted in post #2 ammonia is used as a refrigerant, but I must confess I've never heard of it used in household or consumer appliances. It's more of an industrial or commercial refrigerant.

    It is highly toxic. Three workers in B.C. died this month while servicing an ammonia refrigeration system in a town hockey arena.

    Get some competent medical advice.
     
  8. ktup-flyer

    ktup-flyer Pattern Altitude

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    idk, I think I'd rather drink AvGas than eat coleslaw...
     
  9. Salty

    Salty Cleared for Takeoff

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    Why in the name of god haven't you gone to a hospital to seek treatment and verify there isn't a continuing hazard?

    Why would you ask the hotel to talk to a doctor? YOU SHOULD BE TALKING TO A DOCTOR! Maybe the gas has effected your critical thinking - see a medical professional ASAP
     
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  10. Bill Jennings

    Bill Jennings Final Approach

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    Be on the lookout for any signs of a cough, chemically induced pneumonia can happen.
     
  11. steingar

    steingar Touchdown! Greaser!

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    If it was freon you were exposed to there is little worry, the stuff is inert. But if you smelled ammonia there was ammonia, period. Get to a doctor, I hear Italy has lots. There are tests they can run to make certain you're OK. Sorry this happened to you.
     
  12. Clark1961

    Clark1961 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    There’s a very serious lesson to be learned here: fetching beer from the mini-bar can kill. Find a pub and let the staff fetch yer beers!
     
  13. jsstevens

    jsstevens En-Route PoA Supporter

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    Ammonia is still commonly used as refrigerant in RV type refrigerators because they don't have a compressor. It only requires heat be applied which can be done via electric resistance coils and propane burners. I suppose it's possible that the hotel used RV type refrigerators because of the form factor, but it seems unlikely because they are not nearly as efficient as those with a compressor.

    Freon doesn't smell and as @steingar pointed out, it's inert. Ammonia, on the other hand, will mess up your lungs and nose. (That's complex medical terminology.) I have personal experience with ammonia in a high school chem lab and my sense of smell is somewhat damaged to this day, mumblety-mumble (OK, 40) years later.

    Get checked by a Dr. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

    John
     
  14. LongRoadBob

    LongRoadBob Line Up and Wait

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    Thanks all, I've got an appointment for Monday with my doctor in Norway.
    I figure there isn't much they can do to fix if problems, it's the next day, sense of smell feels like menthol and I can still smell traces of ammonia, have tried inhaling water.

    Yes also it has affected me. The wondering if I was going to die while choking has been hard to shake off.
    I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy. I wrote up the incident and got the manager to sign for receiving it, but he seems unwilling to find, use, fill out an accident report, and I was surprised by this.

    He now offered (I refused) 100 Euro in compensation off our bill. I declined and said I need to get a medical evaluation which I will on Monday. I said I would not accept compensation until I had a medical evaluation of any possible lasting damage.
    The source, the ammonia, is gone though I still get whiffs of it (molecules?) now and then in my nose.

    I don't think there is much they can do for me other than assess damage, am I wrong? There isn't a kind of anti ammonia cures after inhaling it. Was a huge invisible cloud, the size of the mini-fridge. The director/manager claims to have talked with the manufacturer and he is adamant that there is ammonia only, used as coolant, in their fridges. No freon. Which as was pointed out above, freon might have been better.

    Breathing is almost normal, except am a little short of breath, not drastic. Throat is scratchy, not painful, but definitely like a pressure.

    I am not feeling great still, very worn out, but no huge danger signs. Taste buds are improving. I seem to be able to smell....anyway my wife says I smell :)

    Terribly worn out, but there has been a lot of walking, and HOT here (21 deg C) this hotel is weird, the staff is helpful, director is sleazy. They have those mini safes, but they aren't bolted down to anything. We had moved after the first night because of street traffic noises, to the gassing room. They wanted us to STILL stay in the room after they changed out the fridge, but I called it "unable" but then they found a room for us.

    It's been 21 degrees C our whole stay but the rooms have disabled the air conditioning because it isn't technically summer. Ok, I have travelled enough in Italy to be surprised when AC works, and am ok with it, but they claim the City of Milano force them to actually turn on the HEAT. They have a "bar" on the first floor, but it doesn't open until five (which is why I went up to the room to grab a beer in the first place). Our new room has a door to a balcony but no window (and no way to keep the door ajar without allowing someone to come in to the room from outside).

    I'm used to Italian hotels, but...this one is strange even by that standard.

    Wouldn't you guys think the hotel is supposed to report incidents like this to the health dept, or someone? The guy flat out refuses. It is though a chain, from the US, and I am definitely going to contact the head office. I do not want someone else to got through this. Those fridges are obviously dangerous and we had thought they were using ammonia in their cleaning solvents, but THEY must have known they weren't!
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2017
  15. Salty

    Salty Cleared for Takeoff

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    I would see a doctor immediately, I don't think it's true they can't do anything, but the longer you wait, certainly the less they would be able to do.
    Inhaling something that prevented you from breathing is the sort of thing you should get immediate medical attention for, even if the worst has passed. It may be too late now for them to help, but until they see you, you won't know that, they could very well treat you and prevent longer term issues.

    It's inconceivable to me that they didn't call an ambulance. IMO, asking them to call an ambulance is the only communication with them that you should have done.

    As for your last paragraph, if you went to a hospital, they would be helping you deal with all that for you. Please, GO TO THE HOSPITAL!

    Frankly, by not going to the hospital, you are telling the hotel that you don't really have a problem. And I agree. It must not be a big deal if you aren't even seeking medical attention.
     
  16. TCABM

    TCABM Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Having lived in Italy for years, I seem to recall something about HVAC required to heat on Oct 15 and cool on Apr or May 15th, whether needed or not.

    Unless the Hotel staff called an ambulance for you, I wouldn’t expect them to have to report anything.
     
  17. LongRoadBob

    LongRoadBob Line Up and Wait

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    Thanks but that just isn't so.,I have researched now on the cdc site states (among other things)
    "There is no antidote for ammonia poisoning. Treatment consists of supportive measures. These include administration of humidified oxygen and bronchodilators and airway management; treatment of skin and eyes with copious irrigation; and dilution of ingested ammonia with milk or water.Oct 21, 2014"

    I read more on this. If lungs are damaged they are already damaged. I'm not telling the hotel I don't have a problem or do have a problem, I'm not feeling well still and if results show scarring of the lungs (and I have actually had a lung X-ray not long ago so it will be possible to compare) then I will have had a problem as a result, but there is no cure. In that case the negligence of the hotel personnel may come into play. If I don't have a problem, then all is ok.

    The CDC site was helpful. I now see from it I can expect to possibly have sore throat, nose problems for some day or so more.
     
  18. Salty

    Salty Cleared for Takeoff

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    You don't even know what you were exposed too. It may have been something else, or in addition.

    But it's your lungs, your choice. I'm onboard with the hotel. This is no big deal to you. I wouldn't even give you a discount.
     
  19. Skip Miller

    Skip Miller En-Route PoA Supporter

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    That's the way it is in NYC. heat on Oct 15, A/C on 5/15. This is due to the old fashioned 2-pipe HVAC - can't have both on at the same time.

    -Skip
     
  20. GRG55

    GRG55 En-Route

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    Did the hotel verify that appliance used ammonia refrigerant? You smelled something that may have been ammonia, but best you confirm before perhaps being treated for the wrong thing.
     
  21. LongRoadBob

    LongRoadBob Line Up and Wait

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    The manager said that he had contacted the company that makes the mini fridges, and they told him they use only ammonia as a coolant in the units.
     
  22. bsdunek

    bsdunek Pre-takeoff checklist

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    When I was a kid, maybe 7 or 8, our home refrigerator sprung a leak. This would be about 1945, and Ammonia was used then. Mom sent me to the refrigerator to get something, and when I opened the door I about fell over, it was so strong. I can appreciate what happened to you. I was OK, but did have a sore throat and nasal passages for a couple of days.
     
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  23. Salty

    Salty Cleared for Takeoff

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    You should definitely trust third hand information on what caused you to not be able to breath and think you were going to die. Smart move.
     
  24. Norman

    Norman En-Route

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    IIRC, in 1945 my grandmother still had an ice box.
     
  25. Scott@KTYR

    Scott@KTYR Pattern Altitude

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    Sorry for your problems. Hope you get better.
    Reading your post I was thinking it was going to be a Halloween story that when you opened the mini fridge you found a body part in a big jar of ammonia!!!
     
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  26. LongRoadBob

    LongRoadBob Line Up and Wait

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    You want to maybe think about easing up a little there salty?
    I am not quite sure where your aggression, and nastiness are coming from but honestly, I don't ****ing need to hear that crap right now.
    I'm dealing with it, using my judgment, and according to what I have found out. Some people here have been extremely helpful...you are not one of them.

    It's getting better, it was ammonia, I smelled it very clearly, ammonia does what I experienced, there is no treatment, we are in a strange city, trying not to make my wife sit in a doctors office or emergency room for a day when I am seeing a doctor on Monday. What is done is done. Either I may have scarring on the lungs or not, but it isn't like they have a salve for it.

    It was a traumatic experience and I don't need your nasty little comments, ok?
     
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  27. Salty

    Salty Cleared for Takeoff

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    I'm trying to get you engaged in caring for your own health. You seem willing to farm it out to random people. But it hasn't worked. I wish you the best.
     
  28. Goofy

    Goofy Line Up and Wait

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    Pretty weird place to look for advice on something like this.....! Would have been home at my doctor's the next day with a call into an attorney. Not screwing around on a pilot forum. But hey, that's just me....
     
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  29. LongRoadBob

    LongRoadBob Line Up and Wait

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    Ok, apologies. You are not wrong.

    I was feeling very bad, and was not in the frame of mind to take in being put down on top of it all.

    It was not a good decision on my part. I should definitely have demanded the hotel call an ambulance there and then. Stupid is an accurate description.
    Bad judgment too.

    The hotel did offer 100 Euro off my bill as "compensation". I declined. It seemed to be a ruse actually (since he pointedly used the words "as compensation" and also that it would take effect "as soon as you answer this email in the affirmative" which seemed to be an agreement that that was that.)

    I am still experiencing a sore throat, the smell of ammonia in the nostrils when I inhale took about 4 days to be gone, but instead there is a slight burning sensation still (like if you smell "menthol") in the nose. My eyes are drier than normal and feel "tired". But the worst is shortness of breath.
    Specially considering I am still a student (61 years old) and am wondering if this has lowered my "ceiling". If hypoxia now may happen at lower altitudes.

    Yeah, this incident showed lack of good judgement. I didn't want to ruin the vacation for me and my wife, the hotel definitely downplayed the need for medical or to call emergency services, but I should have insisted or called myself. I am not going to be a very good pilot unless I get a lot better at making the right call.

    I have since done a lot of research online. Found a few "white papers" from medical universities on what is known about this kind of exposure. From what they write, I judge that I experienced at the very least about 1700 parts per million, but probably a bit more given my age and that my throat closed up (reflexive protection) which is why I was choking. I don't know if it closed though with ammonia in the lungs already or not. I coughed severely (and humungous burping also in between coughs...the only thing missing was huge farts so I'd be airing out my insides from all ports) right after.

    So I got home on Sunday, saw my doctor on monday. I've not been impressed with my doctor, as she seems to not take in things one says, or really engage, or use any time at all to diagnose. I told a short version of what happened, and without so much as looking into my throat for redness, etc. or listening to my breathing, in fact from 3 feet away and zero inspection she decreed that I ought to be "all right". Apparently since I was still functioning, even though I told her my symptoms. Again, I am not exactly on my game, as I was leaving her office she even said something to the effect of "if it were dangerous they wouldn't use them in a hotel".

    I am trying now to make an appointment with my new doctor. Here in norway you have a "fastlege" which is THE or YOUR doctor. You have to officially apply to change docs. I did.

    Reading up on the possible after affects is quite scary. It still does seem there is no "treatment" per se. But emphasyma, pulmonary edema, ashtma, blindness or degradation of sight, and many other things have been known to happen from exposure/inhalation of anhydrous ammonia.
    It was noted that this can occur even weeks after initial exposure, and went on to months in some instances as well as noting some happening a year after (think that was emphasyma).

    So, sorry for my harsh response, but I was stressed out.
     
  30. Salty

    Salty Cleared for Takeoff

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    You don't need to apologize. You are the victim here.
     
  31. Norman

    Norman En-Route

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    IMO you made the right choice in switching doctors. She seemed to dismiss it summarily without even examining you. Not the kind of doctor I'd have much faith in.
     
  32. Salty

    Salty Cleared for Takeoff

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    Agreed. Good decision.
     
  33. Salty

    Salty Cleared for Takeoff

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    It sucks to spend your vacation in the ER, but it also sucks to be gassed in your hotel room. **** happens, and you have to deal with it to make sure it doesn't get worse. I think your support system failed you, combined with your bravado in trying to shake it off.

    Just as an example, when you go into a doctor and tell them you were gassed four days ago, they are going to put that into perspective that you didn't seek treatment for four days. That's a piece of information they will use to judge the severity of your situation. If you're sitting in the ER an hour after exposure, still showing active symptoms, you're going to get a very different reaction.

    Don't get me wrong though, I still think you should switch doctors because you don't feel yours is listening.

    I do think you need to realize, based on what you've said, that you are susceptible to "get-there-itis" and the bravado hazardous attitude, but knowing that is half the battle. It's not a reason not to become a pilot, it's just something to work on.

    I hope you shake this off and there are no lasting effects.
     
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  34. LongRoadBob

    LongRoadBob Line Up and Wait

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    yes. I agree.

    At this point I just have to go from here, I can't undo as much as I realize I should have. It was all those factors you name. Possibly also why I reacted to your posts, bugged me that you were right. I was close minded and "toughing it out" and that is just plain dumb.

    I am going to see the new doctor (know nothing about him) and push for being referred to any kind of specialist in toxic poisoning. As your pointed out, the way IN was through emergency services. The system here seems to not be geared to handle this, at least my previous doctor.
     
  35. LongRoadBob

    LongRoadBob Line Up and Wait

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    To update. A few days ago I decided it was best to go outside the health system here and go to a private clinic. The doctor was a "real" doctor, and I felt he was very competent.

    He checked me out, and spent time diagnosing. He told me a basically that there is no treatment, that it wa a wait and hope for the best situation. He told me even emergency services couldn't have done much "except maybe given you oxygen to air out the lung area, but by now that is done and if any of the ammonia is still in the air passageways it can only dissipate naturally over time".
    This isn't backtracking, I still agree 100% with Salty's points.

    But he said to give it a few more weeks. He listened to my breathing, looked into my throat, felt my ankles (I think he said had something to do with pulmonary check) took blood tests, etc.

    I'm still experiencing symptoms from it. Throat still hurts, nostrils are a little better but still not normal. But the worst is the shortness of breath. I'm really concerned about this, and also if this will affect flying.

    I woke up this morning, feeling like it was worse. First thing on waking was my throat hurting, and shortness of breath (mainly feeling like the exhale breath is weak). Then I realized, we have a low pressure, rain condition today. Barometer is around 990 hPa. Not huge, but again, I noticed it as soon as I woke up.

    All my life I've been a night person, insomnia often, but since this I notice that early and suddenly I'm knocked out, exhausted and have been having to go to bed way early for me. Also have been very "out of it", hard to concentrate, think quickly, more forgetful than normal and feel like a pressure in my head. This may not be related, or may be from less oxygen, or "in my head" but it manifests itself as exhausted and worn out.

    So that's where it stands. The doc said that though he couldn't say for sure, he was hopeful and expected that over the next few weeks there was a good chance my breathing could come back to what it was.
    The other symptoms are just unpleasant, but not a big concern.
     
  36. Salty

    Salty Cleared for Takeoff

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    That sucks. I'm not one to talk lawyers, but I'd at least check and see if using ammonia in a hotel fridge is legal in Italy. Sounds like a horrible idea to put such a thing in a small room. Was the hotel a chain?
     
  37. Ravioli

    Ravioli En-Route PoA Supporter

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    You might consider getting a pulse oximeter and charting the values when you wake, a couple time during the day, and at bedtime.

    Once you have a baseline you can take it flying and see how you're doing at various altitudes.

    They can be had for about $20 in the US. (just as reference that they are cheap diagnostics)
     
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  38. wrbix

    wrbix Cleared for Takeoff

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    Recommend chest X-ray now and pulmonary function studies with diffusing capacity - not only to assess any current injury but also as a (as close possible) baseline in case respiratory issues worsen in future.
     
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2017
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  39. wrbix

    wrbix Cleared for Takeoff

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    As was previously mentioned, NH3 is what is used in RV reefers.
    I once opened the door of my Airstream and was met with an overwhelming wave of NH3 when a leak had occurred.
    So, yes, commonly used in small spaces
     
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2017
  40. Salty

    Salty Cleared for Takeoff

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    I'm not sure that's the same thing. In an RV the gas could be vented outside easier than in a hotel room.