Blood is needed all year to treat people with chronic illnesses and those who have suffered serious injuries. The Red Cross relies on the generosity of volunteer donors, but donations typically drop off around the holidays, when people tend to be busier than usual. Severe weather and seasonal illnesses also contribute to the decline in donations. January has been designated as National Blood Donor Month to encourage people to donate.
How Blood Donations Can Save Lives
Individuals who have serious medical conditions, such as cancer, may benefit from transfusions. Even those who are healthy may find themselves in need of a transfusion. Blood donations can save the lives of individuals who have been victims of violent attacks and accidents.
Whole blood can be given to patients via transfusions, or it can be separated into its components, which include red and white cells and plasma. In that way, one donation may help save the lives of multiple recipients.
Who Is Eligible to Donate Blood
The Red Cross sets eligibility guidelines to ensure the safety of both donors and recipients. The rules set minimum age and weight requirements, and donors are asked a series of questions about their medical history, medications they take, areas where they have recently traveled, and their lifestyle. Potential donors also undergo some simple health assessments to determine whether they are eligible. Individuals may give blood every 56 days, as long as they continue to meet the eligibility criteria.
Reasons Why People Don’t Donate Blood
Some individuals are reluctant to donate blood because of a fear of blood or needles. While the donation process is a little uncomfortable, many first-time donors find that it’s not as unpleasant as they feared. Donors often discover that the knowledge that they are helping to save lives far outweighs the temporary discomfort they feel.
People sometimes think they don’t have time to donate blood. In most cases, the process only takes about an hour. Blood drives are scheduled in a variety of locations so that they are easily accessible to people who live and work nearby. Many individuals schedule an appointment to donate blood on their lunch break or before or after work.
How You Can Help
If you have never donated blood, consider taking the first step by scheduling an appointment. If you have donated in the past, but it’s been a while since your last donation, make an appointment and set a goal of donating consistently in the future. Encourage your family members, friends, and coworkers to get involved by sharing your experiences and answering any questions they may have.