Winter is a notoriously bad time for blood banks across the nation, as bad weather, holidays and travel keep many donors from coming in. January has been declared National Blood Donor Month, in hopes of spreading awareness of the vital need for donors and increasing the amount of people walking through blood banks' doors. It is also a time to recognize and thank the many Americans who donate their blood to save lives.
According to The American Red Cross, the need for blood donations is great in this country. Every 2 seconds a person in America needs a blood transfusion and over 44,000 donations are needed daily to meet these needs! It is vital that many people donate because donors provide only 1 pint per donation, but a car accident victim may require as much as 100 pints to survive.
Are You Eligible?
If you've never donated before, there are some minimum requirements you must meet to be eligible to donate blood. Some of these requirements are:
- Must be 17 years of age or older (some states will allow 16 year olds with parents' consent)
- Must weigh 110 pounds or more
- Must be healthy (not feeling ill or running a fever)
If you meet these requirements you can attempt to donate blood. A medical history questionnaire will be required at the time of donation and your responses to the questions will determine whether or not you can donate that day.
What to Expect
A typical visit to a blood donation facility includes the following steps:
- Registration - This will require a photo ID (such as a driver's license or passport)
- Medical History - You will need to read the supplemental information provided to you by the staff and then fill out a form regarding your medical history.
- Exam - You will meet with a staff member to review your medical history form, have your temperature taken and your iron levels tested. The iron test requires a finger prick to draw a small amount of blood.
- Donation - If you meet all the requirements for donating blood you will be taken to another room to have your blood drawn. You can choose which arm you prefer to use. Most donations are done within ten minutes.
- After - After the donation is complete you will be offered a beverage and in some cases food as well. Most facilities ask you to stay for 5 - 15 minutes to ensure there are no complications. You should not exercise for 24 hours after donating and remember to hydrate throughout the day.
For many donors, the act of saving lives is incentive enough, but many facilities like to reward donors with gifts such as t-shirts, bags, and giftcards. Check with the facilities in your area to see what they offer and maybe you can talk a friend into donating with you.
It is important to donate blood all year, but in the winter when supplies are drastically lower, it is even more important. Find a local blood donation center near you and donate today!