AN ALERT doctor may have saved the lives of an entire family after spotting signs that they were being poisoned by carbon monoxide fumes.

Alarm bells rang when 40-year-old Peter Adams was sent to see Royal Bournemouth Hospital consultant Dr Alan Williams in mid-January.

Mr Adams, of Fairley Park, Ringwood, had been suffering from severe headaches and nausea for several months and had even visited the emergency department in November, where he had been given a morphine injection.

His GP suspected he had a recurrence of obstructive sleep apnoea, which causes sufferers to repeatedly stop breathing in their sleep.

Dr Williams, who works in the hospital’s thoracic department, said: “His headaches were a bit more severe than I would have anticipated with this condition, so I started thinking of other causes.

“I asked him if any other family members had been unwell. I think the children had some problems with tummy complaints and the whole family had been feeling quite tired and lethargic.

“I was immediately very concerned and told him to get the gas engineer in.”

The engineer found that the filters for the boiler, situated behind the gas fire, were blocked with fur from the family’s cat.

If the family had kept the heating on all night, it is likely they would have perished.

Mr Adams realised that he, his wife Juliet, William, nine, Catharine, 12 and Lauren, 14, had started feeling ill when the heating went on in September.

“As a family, we were all falling asleep by eight o’clock in the evening.

“My son was having headaches and my wife was constantly feeling tired. The children had stomach cramps and sickness, but we just put it down to winter blues.

“For myself, the worst thing was when I had a couple of nights staying away from the house. I would end up with the most severe headache and being violently sick. From what I’m told it was like withdrawal symptoms.”

Mr Adams, who ironically designs ventilation systems for commercial premises, now urges everyone to invest in a carbon monoxide detector.

For Dr Williams, it was the first case of carbon monoxide poisoning he had seen in his 34-year career. “It’s nice to feel you have done a good job.

“I had a lovely letter from Peter – it’s something I will treasure all my life.”