Protecting your home & your family from carbon monoxide poisoning

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FREMONT, Neb. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas than can seep into your home - if you aren't careful. Last year, more than 400 people died from carbon monoxide poisoning. In this month's Health Check - Serese Cole shows us the warning signs and how to keep your home safe.

Amy Holtz's home is her safe haven.

But she didn't feel so safe back in March.

"We recently had some work done to the propane line to our house," Holtz said.

A few weeks later her carbon monoxide detector went off in the middle of the night. But she didn't heed the warning.

The next day...

"I just didn't feel well," Holtz said.

Neither did her 12-year-old daughter Brooklyn.

"My stomach hurt and I felt like I was going to throw up and I had a huge headache," Brooklyn explained.

"My son called me saying that he wasn't feeling good," Amy Holtz added.

Amy feared her entire family had carbon monoxide poisoning.

Fremont Health Emergency Department doctor John Hogue says the symptoms can come on so suddenly.

Those symptoms: Headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, and confusion -- should never be ignored, and he says we're all at risk.

"Because we use gas in our cars, gas in our stoves, gas heaters, gas to fuel our water heaters. So it's pretty prevalent that you could produce it. It becomes a problem when that by-product is not vented or it becomes concentrated in a closed space," Dr. Hogue explained.

Dr. Hogue says the number one thing you can do to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in your home is to make sure you have a carbon monoxide detector.

But that's just the beginning.

Never leave your car running in your garage - even with the garage door open.

Have a qualified technician check your heating and cooling system, and water heater every year.

"If you have a fireplace , make sure there's no obstruction - and make sure you don't use any type of camping devices or charcoal burning devices in an enclosed area and don't cook with those inside your home," Dr. Hogue advised.

It may sound simple. But 20-thousand people in the United States go to the emergency room every year because of carbon monoxide poisoning - including the Holtz family.

"The worst case scenario for me would have been not waking up or one of them not waking up," Amy Holtz said.

"I was scared because I thought I might die," Brooklyn admitted.

Amy is thankful her family is alive and well - and that she feels safe in her home again.

Amy regrets not getting up to check when her detector when off. But when she started feeling sick, she did the right thing. She got out of her house and went to the hospital. Tests revealed she and he family were not suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning. If they had tested positive, they could have been treated with oxygen.