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When was the last time you donated blood?

Chances are, you know someone who will need a transfusion sometime in their life —  it could be a friend, a relative, or a co-worker.

Every two seconds, someone in the United States is in need of a blood transfusion. Click To Tweet

While blood donations are needed year-round, January has been deemed National Blood Donation Month to remind Americans of the critical need for donations and to encourage potential donors to give. The need for blood donation is constant. Blood products have a shelf life and must be used before they expire. Donated red blood cells last for 42 days, platelets last for only 5 days and plasma and cryoprecipitate can be frozen for up to one year. Donors are able give red blood every 56 days or up to six times yearly and platelets every 7 days, up to a maximum of 24 times in a year.

Blood is typically in short supply during the winter months due to the holidays, the amount of traveling by donors, and various drawbacks that cold weather brings.  In these cold months when blood supply is critically low, it is important that we spread the awareness of the need for more blood donors.

Over 5 million patients receive blood in a single year. Approximately 41,000 blood donations are needed every day in the U.S. to treat patients with conditions requiring blood transfusions, such as cancer, surgeries, burns, and other accidents. Cancer patients make up a large percentage of those receiving blood transfusions. Many patients in the cancer population are in need of transfusions, sometimes daily. This is because of the nature of some cancers, like digestive cancers leading to anemia. Some treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation, affect the bone marrow’s ability to produce new red blood cells.

34% of these blood donations go towards cancer patients. Click To Tweet

It’s not just whole blood that is needed — there are four types of transfusable products that can be derived from a whole blood donation: red blood cells, platelets, plasma, and cryoprecipitate. Often, one pint of whole blood is separated into two or three parts, meaning you can help save up to three lives with one donation. You can also choose to only donate specific blood components.

You can help save 2 or 3 lives with one blood donation Click To Tweet

Can you give blood?

In order to donate, volunteers must be healthy, at least 17 years old and weigh at least 110 pounds. The process is safe and takes about an hour.

While the prerequisites for donating blood seem broad, only 38% of Americans are eligible to donate. To see if you’re eligible, you can go through the Red Cross’s detailed eligibility requirement information, including whether or not those ever diagnosed with cancer can donate blood.

Knowing that you’re helping to save lives is usually incentive enough, but if you need an extra boost to donate, check to see if any local blood collection organizations offer rewards for donations. For example, United Blood Services (in 18 states) offers “points” for donations that can be redeemed for prizes such as t-shirts or movie tickets.

If you’re interested in learning more about donating blood, check out our infographic below. And, if you’re eligible, contact your local Red Cross to make an appointment!



Caryn Huneke is completing her dietetic internship and MS degree in Nutrition Education at Teachers College, Columbia University to become a Registered Dietitian.


Blood Facts and Statistics. American Red Cross. Accessed on January 13, 2014.

Donation Process. American Red Cross. Accessed on January 14, 2014.

Caryn Huneke

Caryn Huneke is completing her dietetic internship and MS degree in Nutrition Education at Teachers College, Columbia University to become a Registered Dietitian.

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