Posted on January 15, 2020
January is National Blood Donor Month, declared by President Richard Nixon in 1970, to pay tribute to voluntary blood donors and increase donation by others. In general, blood donations drop off during and immediately after the winter holidays, which makes National Blood Donor Month in January a critical time for the American Red Cross.
Busy schedules, holiday vacations, inclement weather and winter illnesses contribute to fewer blood and platelet donations this time of year. On many occasions, severe winter weather has forced the Red Cross to cancel dozens of blood drives, leaving hundreds of donations uncollected. This poses quite a challenge since the need for blood doesn’t take a holiday nor diminish because of a snowstorm!
The Red Cross needs to collect more than 13,000 donations every day to keep the blood supply ready and available to meet the needs of about 2,600 hospitals, clinics and cancer centers across the country.
Although an estimated 38 percent of the U.S. population is eligible to donate blood at any given time, less than 10 percent ever do. The Red Cross, which provides about 40 percent of blood in the U.S., hopes to change that. The organization is seeking new donors in the new year to step up to help meet the needs of patients battling cancer and other conditions or disorders, individuals undergoing surgery and victims of accidents or violent acts.
You can’t age out of being a voluntary blood donor, however older contributors who often donate consistently can become ineligible due to changes in their health or weight. The Red Cross stresses that individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood.
And there are some health benefits of donating blood:
- Free blood tests – donated blood is tested and donor can asked to be informed if any irregularities are found.
- Satisfaction of saving human lives
- Calorie burn – Blood donation process burns 650 calories – about the same as an average spin class!
- Reduced risk of heart disease – helps eliminate excess buildup of iron in the blood
- Reduced risk of cancer – also due to reduction of excess iron buildup in the blood
It’s important that the Red Cross has a sufficient blood supply on hand to meet patient needs and be prepared for all types of emergencies. Blood can take up to three days to be tested, processed and made available for patients, so it’s the blood products already on hand that help save lives. Eligible blood and platelet donors are urged to schedule a donation today by using the Red Cross Blood Donor app, visiting redcrossblood.org or by calling 1-800-REDCROSS (1-800-733-2767).