COLUMBUS, GA (WXTX) - For many, the holiday season means hope, joy and treasured time with friends and family.
For others, though, the winter months instead bring sadness and the mourning of loved ones.
Muscogee County Coroner Bill Thrower says the "Season of Death" is upon us, with murders, suicides and natural deaths all at the highest levels of the year.
"There are many reasons, but the biggest reason I see is the climate changes," says Thrower.
When the weather gets cold, carbon monoxide poisoning deaths increase, as people turn on their older gas heaters.
The icy road conditions after it rains also cause more traffic related deaths.
Even the air we breathe can turn deadly during the winter months.
"If you listen to the EMS calls that go out for ambulances, you hear more respitory problems, breathing problems, and all that is due to atmospheric changes," said Thrower.
Of course, weather isn't the only culprit; the holidays bear some of the blame.
Many people have health problems that they would normally see a doctor for, but during the holiday season, they put it off.
That can have deadly consequences.
"People feel like it's Christmas, New Year's, and they don't want to bother their families, so they sit back, don't complain, and then don't take care of the issues," said Thrower.
This year, the economy is playing an even bigger part in the rising death count...especially for people on fixed incomes.
"They have a choice between medication, food or heat, and not everybody can afford all three of those," said Thrower.
Many of these deaths are preventable.
For all those out there with gas heaters, have the gas company make sure that it isn't producing dangerous levels of carbon monoxide.
If you are having immediate health issues, like chest pains or trouble breathing, don't wait until after the holidays to get checked out; those symptoms can lead to fatal heart attacks or strokes.