January is National Blood Donor Month and it is badly needed because winter is one of the most difficult times of year to collect enough blood products to meet patient needs. Busy holiday schedules and bad weather are typically to blame, but you don’t have to let it stop you from helping the cause.
According to the American Red Cross, donating blood just one time can save as many as three lives. Blood and platelets can only come from volunteers, they cannot be manufactured. Yet, only 38% of the population is eligible to give blood or platelets.
Let’s look at some of the facts about blood donation, and why it’s so critical to give not only during National Blood Donor Month but during any month of the year.
National Blood Donor Month began in January 1970. But the Red Cross actually started collecting blood donations in 1940. Donating blood saves many lives and improves health for many people. In fact, the World Health Organization calls blood donation “the gift of life.”
Using figures from the Red Cross, we found some very interesting facts about blood and why an event like National Blood Donor Month is so important. The need is very apparent when you hear that approximately 36,000 units of red blood cells are needed every day in the United States. The blood type most often requested by hospitals is Type O, but only 7% of people carry this universal blood type. Type O blood can be used in transfusions for any blood type.
The average red blood transfusion takes about 3 units. A car crash victim can require as many as 100 units of blood and nearly 7,000 units of platelets and 10,000 units of plasma are needed daily in America.
There is also a critical need for blood to treat diseases like sickle cell disease — which affects nearly 100,000 people— and cancer patients. In fact, sickle cell patients can require blood transfusions throughout their lives. And according to the American Cancer Society, nearly 2 million people have cancer. Many of them will need blood, sometimes daily, during their chemotherapy treatment.
Whether it’s during National Blood Donor Month or any other time of the year, you can always donate blood. The Red Cross holds about 500 blood drives every day and blood donors can give every 56 days. Platelet donors can give every seven days. And when you donate, it’s like having a blood test because your blood will be checked for diseases like AIDS.
You can also organize a blood drive on your own or encourage your high school-aged kids to donate.
Another thing you should make sure you do this time of year is to get your flu shot (if you haven’t already). Our guide explains the importance of protecting yourself from influenza and other things you can do to decrease your risk.