Each January we celebrate you, our dedicated blood and platelet donors, during National Blood Donor Month. We couldn’t carry out our lifesaving mission without you. As we begin the New Year, the Red Cross encourages individuals to resolve to roll up a sleeve to give this month and throughout 2018. Blood donors bring hope and promise to hospital patients who may need blood for their very life. Donors are people like you who play a vital role in modern health care by helping ensure hospitals have blood for patients.
January is a challenging time for blood donation because cold and snowy weather and busy post-holiday schedules can make it difficult for blood donors to keep appointments. Regardless of the time of year, hospital patients nationwide need about 44,000 blood donations daily for cancer care, surgeries, and the treatment of serious diseases and trauma. The Red Cross encourages donors to make and keep appointments, both for convenience and to reinforce the feeling of commitment. The Community can also contribute to the blood supply by organizing or volunteering at a blood drive.
National Blood Donor Month has been observed in January since 1970 with the goal of increasing blood and platelet donations. About 1 pint (480 mL) of blood is taken when you donate. It takes about 10 minutes. The whole process-including answering questions and having a short exam-takes up to an hour. Donated blood is tested to make sure that it is safe to use. It’s also checked for its type. This makes sure that the person who needs blood gets the right type.
Before you donate, a health professional will ask about your current and past health to make sure that you can donate. Some of these questions are very personal, so you will be asked them in private. You will be asked these questions every time you give blood, because the list of who can give blood may change, or your health may change. Having a long-term illness, such as diabetes, doesn’t mean you can’t donate. You may be able to give blood if your health problem is under control. But you shouldn’t donate blood if you feel like you’re getting a cold or the flu.
Most people feel fine after they give blood. But if you feel a little lightheaded, lie down for a while. Drink plenty of fluids, and have some snacks. Call the blood bank or clinic if you feel sick within 24 hours after giving blood. Your body will replace the lost fluid in 24 hours. (It takes a few weeks to replace red blood cells.) You will have to wait 56 days before you can give whole blood again.
Blood is essential to life. Blood circulates through our body and delivers essential substances like oxygen and nutrients to the body’s cells. It also transports metabolic waste products away from those same cells. There is no substitute for blood. It cannot be made or manufactured. Generous blood donors are the only source of blood for patients in need of a blood transfusion. The reason to donate is simple…it helps save lives. In fact, every two seconds of every day, someone needs blood. Since blood cannot be manufactured outside the body and has a limited shelf life, and the supply must constantly be replenished by generous blood donors.